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The Family Among the Australian Aborigines. London: University 
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Primitive Religion and Social Differentiation. Cracow (in Polish, 
out of print), 1915. 

■^'The Natives of Mailu." Adelaide: Trans, of the R. Soc. of S. Jus- 
tralia for 1915. Pp. 494-706. 1915. 

Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Geo. Routledge and 
Sonsj New York: E. P. Dutton and Co. 1922. 

"Magic, Science, and Religion," in Essays collected by J. Needham, 
under the title Science, Religion, and Reality. London: The Sheldon 
Press J New York and Toronto: The Macmillan Co. 1926. 

Myth in Primitive Psychology. London: Kegan Paul and Co.j New 
York: W. W. Norton and Co. 1926. 

Crime and Custom in Savage Society. London: Kegan Paul and Co.j 
New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co. 1926. 

The Father in Primitive Psychology. London: Keg-an Paul and Co.j 
New York: W. W. Norton and Co. 1927. 

:Sex and Repression in Savage Society. London: Kegan Paul and Co.j 
New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co. 1927. 


in North-We stern Melanesia 




PH. D.J D.SC. 

Complete in One Volume 



Distributed by 


New York 

Copyright, 1929, by 
Bronislaw Malinowski 


19 14—19 1 8 


Printed in ihe U. S. A, 

"«-' o 

To my friend 


By Havelock Ellis 

The sexual life of savages has long awaited its natural 
historian. Owing to sex taboos, that weigh at least as 
much on the civilized as on the savage mind, this subject 
has always been veiled in mystery. The mystery has been 
fascinating or sombre according to the general attitude to 
savagery that happened to prevail. In the eighteenth 
century it was fascinating. That century, especially in its 
French mode, virtually discovered what is loosely and in- 
correctly termed "Primitive Man," and found his finest 
embodiment in the new and Paradisiacal world of America 
and Oceania. These French voyagers and missionaries 
(though there were some notable but more sober-minded 
English and other sailors among them) were delighted 
and intoxicated as these strange manners and customs, 
often so gracious and fantastic, opened out before their 
astonished vision. They were incapable of understanding 
them, and they had no time to penetrate below the sur- 
face, but the enthusiastic impressions they honestly set 
down seemed a revelation to the Parisian world with its 
own widely unlike artificialities and conventions. Then 
was developed the conception of the "noble" savage of 
whom Tacitus had caught a glimpse in primeval German 
forests living in "a state of Nature." The nineteenth 
century grew contemptuous of what seemed to it Rous- 



seau's superficial and imaginative vision of the natural 
man. But Rousseau had really been a careful student of 
the narratives of explorers in his time, as there is clear 
evidence to show. The conclusions he drew were not 
more extravagant than those at the opposite extreme 
drawn by later generations and sometimes still persisting 
to-day. Diderot, likewise, when he wrote his famous 
Sufflefnent au Voyage de Bougainville y to exhibit to his 
fellow-countrymen the superior reasonableness in matters 
of sexual ethics of the Tahitian, brought forward various 
correct facts- — already set down in the attractive narrative 
of the great French navigator — ^but misleadingly, because 
he was ignorant of the social framework to which they 

In the nineteenth century the more sombre view pre- 
vailed. The explorers were now mainly English, and 
they carried with them the Anglo-Saxon Puritanism for 
which all sexual customs that are unfamiliar are either 
shocking or disgusting. "Obscene" was the word com- 
monly used, and it was left to the reader's imagination to 
picture what that might mean. The sexual behaviour of 
savages seemed mostly unspeakable. The urethral sub- 
incision practised by some Australian tribes was mysteri- 
ously named "the terrible rite." A similar mutilation of 
the nose or ear, or anywhere a little higher up or a little 
lower down, would not have seemed "terrible" j but at 
that particular spot it aroused a shuddering and shame- 
faced awe. 

In the twentieth century we have moved towards a 
calmer attitude. We are learning to view our own sex 



taboos a little less solemnly. At the same time we are 
acquiring a more scientific spirit in the investigation of the 
few remaining peoples yet not too completely under the 
influence of our own civilization, regarding them no 
longer with either adulation or contempt, but as valuable 
witnesses to unfamiliar aspects of our common human 
nature. The Cambridge Expedition to Torres Straits 
with its scientifically trained observers, and all that that 
expedition led to in subsequent observations in other parts 
of the world by such distinguished workers as Rivers and 
Seligman, may be regarded as a landmark. But we still 
pined in vain for a picture of the sexual life of any un- 
spoilt people. One or two investigators, like Roth in 
Queensland, noted a few precise objective facts of the sex 
life, and more recently Felix Bryk, in his Neger-EroSy 
has produced a valuable study of the erotic life in Equa- 
torial Africa, but it has not been easy to find any really 
comprehensive picture. 

Such a task needed, indeed, a rare combination of quali- 
fications j not only a scientific equipment but a familiarity 
with various new fertilizing ideas, not always considered 
scientific, which have of late been thrown into the anthro- 
pological field j a long and intimate knowledge of the 
people to be investigated and of their language, for it is 
not only in civilization that the sexual life tends to be shy 
and recessive j not least, there was required in the inves- 
tigator a freedom alike from the traditions of Anglo- 
Saxon Puritanism, however estimable in their own place, 
and from the almost equally unfortunate reactions to 
which the revolt against those traditions may lead. 



All these qualifications are in a rare degree combined 
in Dr. Malinowski : the scientific outfit, the sensitive intel- 
ligence, the patience in observation, the sympathetic in- 
sight. He is known by numerous monographs on various 
sociological aspects of savage culture, mostly based on his 
research among the Trobriand Islanders off the east coast 
of New Guinea, among whom he lived in close touch for 
two years. His Argonauts of the Western Pacific — the 
original and elaborate analysis of the peculiar kula ex- 
change system of the Trobriands — is recognized as a bril- 
liant achievement of ethnographic research. It is, indeed, 
more than merely ethnographic, and as Sir James Frazer, 
who introduced the book, pointed out, it is characteristic 
of Dr. Malinowski's method that he takes full account of 
the complexity of human nature. An institution that, at 
the first glance, might seem to be merely economic, is 
found in his searching hands to be not merely commercial, 
but bound up with magic and ministering to the emotional 
and sesthetic needs of the people who exercise it. 

In the field of sex, as I have remarked, it is only to-day 
that investigation has become possible. And this not sim- 
ply because our sex taboos have at last lost something of 
their stringency. It is only to-day that it has here be- 
come possible to ask those right questions which, as Bacon 
said, are the half of knowledge. A quarter of a century 
ago the study of sex was merely the study of extravagant 
aberrations, and, outside this, just sentimental rhapsody. 
It has now become — accordingly as we approach it — 
either a field of natural history, to be studied in the ordi- 
nary spirit of the field naturalist, or else a department of 


psychological dynamics where forces are at play which 
may often be traced beneath the surface and take on 
strange forms and influence even those modes of activity 
which seem most remote from sex. In this department, 
the genius of Freud — as some think, in ways that are 
exaggerated — has given an impetus to the study of the 
sexual impulse and to its possible manifestations even in 
the myths and customs of savages. To these develop- 
ments Dr. Malinowski is fully alive. He was even pre- 
pared at one time to be much more nearly a Freudian than 
we can now describe him. To-day he is neither Freudian 
nor anti-Freudian J he recognizes the fertilizing value of 
Freud's ideas, and he is prepared to utilize them whenever 
they seem helpful in elucidating the phenomena under 
investigation. These phenomena he views with a char- 
acteristically wide outlook 5 while not neglecting the pre- 
cise technique of the erotic art among the Trobriand 
Islanders, he duly investigates their whole sexual life in 
its aesthetic, emotional, family, and social implications. 
Now that he has shown the way, other students doubtless 
will be inspired to follow. But in this field not all who 
are called are chosen. The special combination of needed 
qualifications can rarely be found, and meanwhile the op- 
portunities are every year diminishing. It may safely be 
said that The Sexual Life of Savages in North-western 
Melanesia will become a classic of which the value must 
increase with the passage of time. 

So far I have been speaking of this work in its relation 
to science. But I believe that it also has wider relations. 
It may interest not only those who are concerned with 



origins and with what they may perhaps consider exotic 
forms of social life, but also those who are concerned with 
the present or the future, and the forms of social life at 

We often overlook the fact, which Is yet well estab- 
lished, that the rate and level of evolution are not at 
every point equal. We do not place the negro at the 
summit of human development 3 but at some points he is 
further evolved in physical form than the white man. 
Or, if we take a wider range, it has long been clear that 
the forefoot of the horse has reached a higher stage of 
evolution than that of other animals in general much 
higher in the scale. So, also, on the psychic side, we are 
accustomed to regard the civilization of classic antiquity 
as in some respects higher than our own which yet has pro- 
gressed much further along other lines. 

In the life of sex we are concerned with an impulse of 
profound interest to mankind from the first. It occupies 
a field, one may note, which may be cultivated even by 
peoples whose level of culture is, in many important re- 
spects, far from high. It may even be said that an absorp- 
tion in other fields of culture is actually detrimental to 
culture in the sexual field, and, as we know, a marvellous 
expansion of the mechanical arts and exalted achievements 
in the intellectual sphere may co-exist with a sexual cul- 
ture thrust back into conventions and routines which are 
scarcely even regarded as open to discussion. It is pos- 
sible to be sensitive and alive to achievement In the more 
complex human arts and yet, at the same time, remain 



crude in the more fundamental arts. The reverse devel- 
opment is also possible. 

So it may happen that, in presence of the picture Dr. 
Malinowski here presents to us, we become aware, not 
only of a unique contribution to anthropological research, 
but of suggestions bearing on civilized life and its efForts 
towards social reform. The Trobriand Islanders are a 
small community living in a confined space 5 they only 
supply one of the patterns of savage life, though it may 
well be a fairly typical pattern. When we study it we 
find not merely that in this field the savage man is very 
like the civilized man, with the like vices and virtues 
under different forms, but we may even find that in some 
respects the savage has here reached a finer degree of 
civilization than the civilized man. The comparisons we 
can thus make furnish suggestions even for the critical 
study of our own social life. 

H. E. 



Preface by Havelock Ellis 
Introduction by the Author . 




I. The Relations Between the Sexes in Tribal 

1. The Principles of Mother-Right 

2. A Trobriand Village .... 

3. Family Life ...... 

4. The Division of Property and Duties Accord 

ing to Sex ...... 




The Status of Woman in Native Society 

1. The Privileges and Burdens of Rank 

2. Mortuary Rites and Festivities 

3. Woman's Share in Magic 

Prenuptial Intercourse . 

1. The Sexual Life of Children 

2. Age Divisions ..... 



The Amorous Life of Adolescence 
The Bachelors' House . 

The Avenues to Marriage 

1. Motives for Marrying . 

2. The Consent of the Wife's Family 

3. Marriage Gifts 

4. Infant Betrothal and Cross-Cousin Marriage 

5. Matrimonial Alliances in a Chief's Family 

6. Ceremonies of Infant Betrothal . 






















Husband and Wife as Companions 

Adultery and Sexual Jealousy 

Economic Tribute from the Wife's Family 

The Polygamy of Chiefs 

The Domestic Aspect of Polygamy 

Divorce and the Dissolution of Marriage 
BY Death . . . . ... 

1. Divorce ........ 

2. Death and the Bereaved 

3. Funeral Ceremonies and the Obligations of 

Mourning ....... 

4. The Ideology of Mourning .... 

Procreation and Pregnancy in Native Be- 
lief AND Custom 

1. The Male and Female Organism and the 

Sexual Impulse in Native Belief 

2. Reincarnation and the Way to Life Through 

the Spirit World 

3. Ignorance of Physiological Paternity 

4. Words and Deeds in Testimony 

5. Fatherless Children in a Matrilineal Society . 

6. The Singular Claims of Sociological Paternity 

Pregnancy and Childbirth 

Preparation for the First Pregnancy Rites 
Ceremonial of First Pregnancy 
Customs of Pregnancy and Confinement 
Mother and Child 

Customary Forms of Licence 

1. The Erotic Element in Games 

2. Games Involving Physical Contact 

3. Seasons of Love and Festivity 

4. Ceremonial Gatherings — Kayasa . 

5. Orgiastic Festivals . . . . 














6. Ulatile — ^Youth in Search of Amorous Ad- 

venture ....... 

7. Katuyausi — A Ceremonial Escapade of Girls 

8. Yausa — Orgiastic Assaults by Women . 

9. Actuality of Orgiastic Licence 

Love-Making and the Psychology of Erotic 


Erotic Attraction ..... 

Repulsion by Ugliness, Age, and Disease 
Beauty of the Human Face and Body . 
The Care of the Body 
The Course of an Intrigue . 
Cases of Personal Attachment 
The Commercial Aspect of Love 
Jealousy ...... 

Beauty, Colour, and Scent in Love-Making 
The Conversation of Tv^^o Lovers 
Erotic Approaches .... 

The Act of Sex . . r . . 









XL The Magic of Love and Beauty . 

1. The Importance of Beauty 

2. Ceremonial Occasions of Beauty Magic 

3. Beauty Magic: The Ritual of Washing 

4. Beauty Magic: The Ritual of Adornment 

5. The Magic of Safety and Renown at Festivi 

ties ...... 

6. The Magic of Love 

7. The Rite and the Spell in Love Magic 

8. The Realities of Love Magic 

9. The Magic of Oblivion 

Erotic Dreams and Fantasies 

1. Dreams ...... 

2. Sex in Folk-Lore — String Figures . 

3. Sex in Folk-Lore — Facetise 

4. Sex in Folk-Lore — Legend and Myth 

5. The Erotic Paradise of the Trobriander 
















XIII. Morals and Manners 

1. Decency and Decorum . 

2. The Morals of Sex 

3. The Censure of Sexual Aberrations 

4. Modesty in Speech and Behaviour . 

5. Exogamy and the Prohibition of Incest 

6. The Supreme Taboo 

XIV. A Savage Myth of Incest 

1. The Sources of Love 

2. The Original Text of the Myth 

3. Cases of Actual Incest . 











Two Pretty Girls, One Disfigured by Mourning 


1. The Central Place of Omarakana 

2. The Chief and His Sons 

3. Two Hereditary Enemies 

4. The Chief's Favourite Wife and Her Family 

5. Ceremonial Cooking of Taro 

6. Women with Carrying Pads 

7. A Family on the Road 

8. Native Interior 

9. A Stage in Skirt Making 

10. Drying Skirt Fibre 

1 1 . The Mortuary Dance 

12. Distribution of Skirts in Mortuary Ritual 

13. Decorated Women 

14. Men in Full Festive Attire 

15. Children Showing a Game to the Ethnog- 


16. The Children's Republic 

17. Small Boys Playing at Sagali 

18. A Group of Girls 

19. Boys in the Yam Garden 

20. A Decorated Bachelors' House 

21. Girl IN Front OF A 5c7XC7M^T?7L^ 

22. Kalogusa, the Chief's Son 

23. Marriage Gift in Preparation 

24. The Marriage Gift Displayed 

25. MiTAKATA and OrAYSE 

26. A Happy Family 

27. The Marriage Tribute in the Garden 

28. Carrying the Harvest Gift 

29. The Urigubu in the Village 

30. A Polygamous Family 


31. A Chief's Wife and Her Annual Dowry 

32. Decorated Corpse 

33. Body After First Exhumation 

34. Widow in Full Mourning 

35. Widow in Half Mourning 

36. A Decorated Jawbone 


38. Albino 

39. An Unmarried Mother 

40. Two Brothers 

41. Father and Son 

42. The Pregnancy Cloak 

43. First Charming of the Pregnancy Robes 

44. Cutting the White Lily Leaves 

45. The Way into the Water 

46. The Ritual Bathing 

47. Second Charming of the Pregnancy Cloaks 

48. Guarded from Contact with Earth 

49. Return to the Father's House 

50. Vigil on the Platform 

51. A Mother and Her First-born 

52. Children in a Round Game 

53. A Figure Game 

54. Rats 

55. The Fishing of Kuboya 

56. Typical Scenery of Hide and Seek 

57. A Harvest Scene 

58. A Ceremonial Dancing Demonstration 

59. The U l ATI le of Kwaybwaga 

60. Ulatilb on the Lagoon 

61. Girls Decorated for Katuyausi or Harvest 


62. Katuyausi Party 

63. The Beach of the Lagoon 

64. Bagido'u 

65. Kaydebu Dance 

66. A Melanesian Beauty 

67. A Type Not Admired by the Natives 

68. Ethnographer with a Man in a Wig 


69. The Leaf and the Dress 

70. Lousing 

71. Ceremonial Distribution of Food 

72. After the Distribution 

73. Rehearsal of a Kasawaga Dance 

74. The Crowd Assembled Outside the Village 

for Beauty Magic 

75. The Magic of Mother of Pearl 

76. Magical Face Painting 

77. The Ritual Placing of the Vana 

78. The Last Touch to the Dancers' Toilet 

79. Ready for the Final Dance 

80. Women in the Water Collecting Shells . 

81. Head Pool of the Tidal Creek of Kwabulo 

82. The Inuvayla'u Dance 

83. UsiKELA Bananas in Kaulagu 

84. Accumulation of Food for a Feast 

85. Crowd Collected on a Beach to Admire a 

Large Catch 

86. A Small Group Eating Taro 

87. Typical Lagoon Village 

88. Tokeda — the Belt of Jungle Adjoining a 


89. Ancestral Emergence Spot in a Small Vil- 

lage ON THE Island of Vakuta 

90. Mother and Child 

91. Father and Child 

The Trobriand Islands 


1. Plan of Village of Omarakana 

2. Plan of a Dwelling-House 

3. Cats' -Cradle 

4. The Beach of Kumilabwaga 



I HAVE chosen for this book the plainest, that is the 
most truthful title, partly to contribute towards the re- 
habilitation of the indispensable and often misused term 
sexual, partly to announce directly what the reader has 
to expect in the most outspoken paragraphs. Sex is not 
a mere physiological transaction to the primitive South 
Sea Islander any more than it is to us 3 it implies love 
and love-making j it becomes the nucleus of such vener- 
able institutions as marriage and the family j it pervades 
art and it produces its spells and its magic. It dominates 
in fact almost every aspect of culture. SeXy in its widest 
meaning — and it is thus that I have used it in the title 
of this book — is rather a sociological and cultural force 
than a mere bodily relation of two individuals. But the 
scientific treatment of this subject obviously involves also 
a keen interest in the biological nucleus. The anthro- 
pologist must therefore give a description of the direct 
approaches between two lovers, as we find them in 
Oceania, shaped by their traditions, obeying their laws, 
following the customs of their tribe. 

In Anthropology the essential facts of life must be 
stated simply and fully, though in scientific language, and 
such a plain statement cannot really offend the most deli- 
cately minded nor the most prejudiced reader j nor can it 
be of any use to the seeker after pornography 3 least of all 



can it entice the unripe interest of the young. For pruri- 
ency consists in oblique day-dreaming and not in simple 
and direct statement. The reader will find that the na- 
tives treat sex in the long run not only as a source of 
pleasure, but, indeed, as a thing serious and even sacred. 
Nor do their customs and ideas eliminate from sex its 
power to transform crude material fact into wonderful 
spiritual experience, to throw the romantic glamour of 
love over the technicalities of love-making. The institu- 
tions of the Trobriand community allow mere brutal pas- 
sion to ripen into life-long love, to be shot through with 
personal affinities, to be strengthened by the manifold 
bonds and attachments created through the advent of 
children, by the mutual anxieties and hopes, by the com- 
mon aims and interests of family life. 

It is perhaps in the blending of the directly sensual 
with the romantic and in the wide and weighty socio- 
logical consequences of what to start with is the most per- 
sonal event — it is in this richness and multiplicity of love 
that lies its philosophic mystery, its charm for the poet 
and its interest for the anthropologist. This many-sided- 
ness of love exists among the Trobrianders as well as with 
us, and it brings nearer to us even that which to most 
might at first appear crude and uncontrolled. 

To ignore this latter aspect, however, to shirk treating 
the material foundations of love would in a scientific work 
mean completely to stultify all results. It would be to 
commit the unpardonable sin of evading the real issue. 
Anyone who does not wish to be concerned with sex need 
not acquire or read this book 5 and those who approach 
the subject in a non-scientific spirit may be warned from 



the outset that they will find nothing suggestive or allur- 
ing in the following chapters. 

I want to make it quite clear that the comparisons be- 
tween native and European conditions scattered here and 
there, especially in the later chapters, are not meant to 
serve as a sociological parallel — for that they are far too 
slight. Still less are the native-European parallels of the 
present book meant to provide a homily on our own fail- 
ings or a pasan on our virtues. They are given simply 
because, in order to explain strange facts, it is necessary to 
hark back to familiar ones. The Anthropologist in his 
observations has to understand the native through his own 
psychology, and he must form the picture of a foreign 
culture from the elements of his own and of others prac- 
tically and theoretically known to him. The whole diffi- 
culty and art of field-work consists of starting from those 
elements which are familiar in the foreign culture and 
gradually working the strange and diverse into a compre- 
hensible scheme. In this the learning of a foreign cul- 
ture is like the learning of a foreign tongue: at first mere 
assimilation and crude translation, at the end a complete 
detachment from the original medium and a mastery of 
the new one. And since an adequate ethnographic descrip- 
tion must reproduce in miniature the gradual, lengthy, 
and painful processes of field-work, the references to the 
familiar, the parallels between Europe and the Trobriands 
have to serve as starting points. 

After all, to reach the reader I have to rely upon his 
personal experiences which are built up in our own society. 
Exactly as I have to write in English, and translate na- 
tive terms or texts into English, so also I have, in order 



to make them real and comprehensible, to translate Mela- 
nesian conditions into our own. Whatever error there is 
in either procedure is inevitable. An Anthropologist may 
be well aware of traduttore tradltorey but he cannot help 
it — he cannot banish his few patient readers for a couple 
of years to a South Sea atoll, and make them live the life 
for themselves 3 he has, alas, to write books about his 
savages and lecture on them! 

One more point about the method of presentation. 
Every conscientious scientific observer should state not 
only what he knows and how he has come to know it, but 
also indicate those gaps in his knowledge of which he is 
aware, the failures and omissions in his fieJd-work. I 
have given already (^Argonauts of the Western Pad fie ^ 
ch. i) a full account of my credentials: length of time 
spent on the islands, linguistic qualifications, methods of 
collecting documents and statements. I shall not repeat 
this all here, and the few necessary additional remarks 
on the difficult study of native intimate life, the reader 
will find in the text (ch. ix, 95 ch. x, intro.5 chs. xii and 
xiii, intros.) 

The competent and experienced ethnographer and 
anthropologist — and only such a one is interested in the 
margin of accuracy, in the methodology of evidence and 
in the gaps in information — will easily see from the data 
presented throughout this book, where the documentation 
is thin and where it is full. When I make a simple state- 
ment without illustrating it from personal observation or 
adducing facts, this means that I am mainly relying on 
what I was told by my native informants. This is, of 
course, the least reliable part of my material. 



I am especially aware that my knowledge of obstetrical 
facts and of the women's attitude at pregnancy and child- 
birth is rather meagre. Again the father's behaviour at 
the time of childbirth and male psychology with regard 
to it, were not studied as fully as they should have been. 
Many minor points throughout the book are treated in a 
manner which will make clear to the specialist, not only 
where the information is incomplete, but also what fur- 
ther inquiry would be needed to fill out the gaps. On 
most points of fundamental importance, I am convinced 
that I have come down to bedrock. 

One gap, regrettable but hardly to be remedied, is the 
small number of illustrations bearing directly on erotic 
life. Since this, however, takes place in deep shadow, 
literally as well as figuratively, photographs could only 
be faked, or at best, posed — and faked or posed passion 
(or sentiment) is worthless. 

The many obligations incurred in the course of my 
field-work have been acknowledged elsewhere {Argonauts 
of the Western Pacific) j but I should like here to men- 
tion a very special indebtedness to my friend, Billy 
Hancock, trader and pearl-buyer in the Trobriands, whose 
mysterious death occurred while I was writing this book. 
He was ill, and awaiting the South-bound boat at Samarai, 
the European settlement in the east of New Guinea. One 
evening he disappeared, never to be seen or heard of 
again. He was not only an excellent informant and help- 
mate, but a real friend, whose company and assistance 
added a great deal of material comfort and moral support 
in a somewhat exacting and tedious existence. 

In writing this book I was greatly stimulated by the 



interest taken in it by Mr. Havelock Ellis, whose work 
and whose example as a pioneer in honest thought and 
outspoken research I have always admired and revered. 
His preface materially enhances the value of this book. 

The group of my friends, pupils, and colleagues who 
have been associated with Anthropological Research Work 
and Teaching at the London School of Economics for the 
last few years, have helped me greatly to clarify my ideas 
and to present my material, more especially on the sub- 
ject of family life, kinship organization, and marriage 
law. The names of Mrs. Robert Aitken (Miss Barbara 
Freire-Marecco), of Dr. R. W. Firth (now in the Solo- 
mons), of Mr. E. E. Evans-Pritchard (now among the 
Azande), of Miss Camilla Wedgwood (now in Aus- 
tralia), of Dr. Gordon Brown (now in Tanganyika), of 
Dr. Hortense Powdermaker (now on the way to Papua), 
of Mr. I. Schapera (late of South Africa), of Mr. 
T. J. A. Yates (late of Egypt), of Miss Audrey Rich- 
ards, will in my mind be always gratefully remembered 
in association with the drafting of the more difficult socio- 
logical chapters of this book. 

My greatest debt in this book, as in most I have written, 
is to my wife. Her counsel and practical co-operation 
have made the writing of the Argonauts of the Western 
Pacific and of this an agreeable task instead of a drudgery. 
If there is any value and interest in these books for me 
personally, it comes from her share in the common work. 

B. M. 


January^ 1929. 




Man and woman in the Trobriand Islands — ^their rela- 
tions in love, in marriage, and in tribal life — ^this will 
be the subject of the present study. 

The most dramatic and intense stage in the intercourse 
between man and woman, that in which they love, mate, 
and produce children, must occupy the dominant place in 
any consideration of the sexual problem. To the aver- 
age normal person, in whatever type of society we find 
him, attraction by the other sex and the passionate and 
sentimental episodes which follow are the most significant 
events in his existence, those most deeply associated with 
his intimate happiness and with the zest and meaning of 
life. To the sociologist, therefore, who studies a par- 
ticular type of society, those of its customs, ideas, and 
institutions which centre round the erotic life of the in- 
dividual should be of primary importance. For if he 
wants to be in tune with his subject and to place it in a 
natural, correct perspective, the sociologist must, in his 
research, follow the trend of personal values and in- 
terests. That which means supreme happiness to the 
individual must be made a fundamental factor in the 
scientific treatment of human society. 



But the erotic phase, although the most important, is 
only one among many in which the sexes meet and enter 
into relations with each other. It cannot be studied out- 
side its proper context, without, that is, being linked up 
with the legal status of man and woman 3 with their do- 
mestic relations 5 and with the distribution of their eco- 
nomic functions. Courtship, love, and mating in a given 
society are influenced in every detail by the way in which 
the sexes face one another in public and in private, by 
their position in tribal law and custom, by the manner 
in which they participate in games, and amusements, by 
the share each takes in ordinary daily toil. 

The story of a people's love-making necessarily has 
to begin with an account of youthful and infantile asso- 
ciations, and it leads inevitably forward to the later stage 
of permanent union and marriage. Nor can the narra- 
tive break oflF at this point, since science cannot claim the 
privilege of fiction. The way in which men and women 
arrange their common life and that of their children 
reacts upon their love-making, and the one stage cannot 
be properly understood without a knowledge of the other. 

This book deals with sexual relations among the na- 
tives of the Trobriand Islands, a coral archipelago lying 
to the north-east of New Guinea. These natives belong 
to the Papuo-Melanesian race, and in their physical ap- 
pearance, mental equipment, and social organization com- 
bine a majority of Oceanic characteristics with certain 
features of the more backward Papuan population from 
the mainland of New Guinea.^ 

1 For a full general account of the Northern Massim, of whom the 




We find in the Trobriands a matrilineal society, in 
which descent, kinship, and every social relationship are 
legally reckoned through the mother only, and in which 
women have a considerable share in tribal life, even to 
the taking of a leading part in economic, ceremonial, and 
magical activities — a fact which very deeply influences 
all the customs of erotic life as well as the institution of 
marriage. It will be well, therefore, first to consider 
the sexual relation in its widest aspect, beginning with 
some account of those features of custom and tribal law 
which underlie the institution of mother-right, and the 
various views and conceptions which throw light upon it j 
after this, a short sketch of each of the chief domains of 
tribal life — domestic, economic, legal, ceremonial, and 
magical — ^will combine to show the respective spheres of 
male and female activity among these natives. 

The idea that it is solely and exclusively the mother 
who builds up the child's body, the man in no way con- 
tributing to its formation, is the most important factor 
in the legal system of the Trobrianders. Their views 
on the process of procreation, coupled with certain myth- 
ological and animistic beliefs, affirm, without doubt or re- 

Trobrianders form a section, cf. the classical treatise of Professor C. G. 
Seligman, Melanesians of British Neiv Guinea, Cambridge, 1910, which 
also shows the relation of the Trobrianders to the other races and cultures 
on and around New Guinea. A short account of Trobriand culture will 
also be found in my Argonauts of the Western Pacific (E. P. Dutton and 
Co., 1923). 


serve, that the child is of the same substance as its mother, 
and that between the father and the child there is no bond 
of physical union whatsoever (see ch. vii). 

That the mother contributes everything to the new 
being to be born of her is taken for granted by the natives, 
and forcibly expressed by them. "The mother feeds the 
infant in her body. Then, when it comes out, she feeds 
it with her milk." "The mother makes the child out of 
her blood." "Brothers and sisters are of the same flesh, 
because they come of the same mother." These and 
similar expressions describe their attitude towards this, 
their fundamental principle of kinship. 

This attitude is also to be found embodied, in an even 
more telling manner, in the rules governing descent, in- 
heritance, succession in rank, chieftainship, hereditary 
offices, and magic — in every regulation, in fact, concerning 
transmission by kinship. Social position is handed on in 
the mother-line from a man to his sister's children, and 
this exclusively matrilineal conception of kinship is of 
paramount importance in the restrictions and regulations 
of marriage, and in the taboos on sexual intercourse. The 
working of these ideas of kinship can be observed, break- 
ing out with a dramatic intensity, at death. For the social 
rules underlying burial, lamentation, and mourning, to- 
gether with certain very elaborate ceremonies of food dis- 
tribution, are based on the principle that people joined 
by the tie of maternal kinship form a closely knit group, 
bound by an identity of feelings, of interests, and of flesh. 
And from this group, even those united to it by marriage 
and by the father-to-child relation are sharply excluded, 



as having no natural share in the bereavement (see ch. vi, 
sees. 2-4). 

These natives have a well-established institution of 
marriage, and yet are quite ignorant of the man's share 
in the begetting of children. At the same time, the term 
"father" has, for the Trobriander, a clear, though ex- 
clusively social, definition: it signifies the man married 
to the mother, who lives in the same house with her, and 
forms part of the household. The father, in all discus- 
sions about relationship, was pointedly described to me as 
tomakavay a "stranger," or, even more correctly, an "out- 
sider." This expression would also frequently be used by 
natives in conversation, when they were arguing some 
point of inheritance or trying to justify some line of be- 
haviour, or again when the position of the father was to 
be belittled in some quarrel. 

It will be clear to the reader, therefore, that the term 
"father," as I use it here, must be taken, not as having 
the various legal, moral, and biological implications that 
it holds for us, but in a sense entirely specific to the soci- 
ety with which we are dealing. It might seem better, 
in order to avoid any chance of such misconception, not 
to have used our word "father" at all, but rather the 
native one tamUy and to have spoken of the ^Hama relation- 
ship" instead of "fatherhood" j but, in practice, this would 
have proved too unwieldy. The reader, therefore, when 
he meets the word "father" in these pages, should never 
forget that it must be defined, not as in the English dic- 
tionary, but in accordance with the facts of native life. 
I may add that this rule applies to all terms which carry 



special sociological implication, that is to all terms of 
relationship, and such words as "marriage," "divorce," 
"betrothal," "love," "courtship," and the like. 

What does the word tama (father) express to the 
native? "Husband of my mother" would be the answer 
first given by an intelligent informant. He would go on 
to say that his tama is the man in whose loving and pro- 
tecting company he has grown up. For, since marriage 
is patrilocal in the Trobriands, since the woman, that is 
to say, moves to her husband's village community and 
lives in his house, the father is a close companion to his 
children 5 he takes an active part in the cares which are 
lavished upon them, invariably feels and shows a deep 
affection for them, and later has a share in their education. 
The word tama (father) condenses, therefore, in its emo- 
tional meaning, a host of experiences of early childhood, 
and expresses the typical sentiment existing between a 
boy or girl and a mature affectionate man of the same 
household 3 while socially it denotes the male person who 
stands in an intimate relation to the mother, and who is 
master of the household. 

So far tama does not differ essentially from "father" 
in our sense. But as soon as the child begins to grow up 
and take an interest in things outside the affairs of the 
household and its own immediate needs, certain complica- 
tions arise, and change the meaning of tama for him. He 
learns that he is not of the same clan as his tama^ that his 
totemic appellation is different, and that it is identical 
with that of his mother. At the same time he learns that 



all sorts of duties, restrictions, and concerns for personal 
pride unite him to his mother and separate him from his 
father. Another man appears on the horizon, and is 
called by the child kadagu ("my mother's brother"). 
This man may live in the same locality, but he is just as 
likely to reside in another village. The child also learns 
that the place where his kada (mother's brother) resides 
is also his, the child's, "own village" 5 that there he has 
his property and his other rights of citizenship j that there 
his future career awaits himj that there his natural allies 
and associates are to be found. He may even be taunted 
in the village of his birth with being an "outsider" {toma- 
kava)y while in the village he has to call "his own," in 
which his mother's brother lives, his father is a stranger 
and he a natural citizen. He also sees, as he grows up, 
that the mother's brother assumes a gradually increasing 
authority over him, requiring his services, helping him in 
some things, granting or withholding his permission to 
carry out certain actions j while the father's authority and 
counsel become less and less important. 

Thus the life of a Trobriander runs under a two-fold 
influence — a duality which must not be imagined as a 
mere surface play of custom. It enters deeply into the 
existence of every individual, it produces strange compli- 
cations of usage, it creates frequent tensions and diffi- 
culties, and not seldom gives rise to violent breaks in the 
continuity of tribal life. For this dual influence of 
paternal love and the matrilineal principle, which pene- 
trates so far into the framework of institutions and into 


the social ideas and sentiments of the native, is not, as a 
matter of fact, quite well adjusted in its working/ 

It has been necessary to emphasize the relationship be- 
tween a Trobriander and his father, his mother, and his 
mother's brother, for this is the nucleus of the complex 
system of mother-right or matriliny, and this system gov- 
erns the whole social life of these natives. The question 
is, moreover, specially related to the main theme of this 
book: love-making, marriage, and kinship are three aspects 
of the same subject j they are the three facets which it 
presents in turn to sociological analysis. 


We have so far given the sociological definition of 
fatherhood, of the mother's brother's relation, and of 
the nature of the bond between mother and child j a bond 
founded on the biological facts of gestation and the ex- 
tremely close psychological attachment which results from 
these. The best way to make this abstract statement clear 
will be to display the inter-working of the three rela- 
tionships in an actual community in the Trobriands. 
Thus we can make our explanations concrete and get 
into touch with actual life instead of moving among ab- 
stractions j and, incidentally, too, we can introduce some 
personalities who will appear in the later parts of our 

The village of Omarakana is, in a sense, the capital 

^ Cf. my Crime and Custom in Salvage Society, Harcourt, Brace, 1926. 



of Kiriwina, the main district of these islands. It is the 
residence of the principal chief, whose name, prestige, 
and renown are carried far and wide over the Archipela- 
goes, though his power does not reach beyond the prov- 
ince of Kiriwina/ The village lies on a fertile, level 
plain in the northern part of the large, flat coral island 
of Boyowa (see map). As we walk towards it, from the 
lagoon anchorages on the western shore, the level road 
leads across monotonous stretches covered with low scrub, 
here and there broken by a tabooed grove, or by a large 
garden, holding vines trained on long poles and looking, 
in its developed form, like an exuberant hop-yard. We 
pass several villages on our way 5 the soil becomes more 
fertile and the settlement denser as we approach the long 
ridge of raised coral outcrop which runs along the eastern 
shore and shuts oflF the open sea from the inland plains 
of the island. 

A large clump of trees appears at a distance — ^these 
are the fruit-trees, the palms and the piece of uncut virgin 
jungle which together surround the village of Omara- 
kana. We pass the grove and find ourselves between two 
rows of houses, built in concentric rings round a large 
open space (see fig. i and plate i). Between the outer 
ring and the inner one a circular street runs round the 
whole of the village, and in it, as we pass, we see groups 
of people sitting in front of their huts (see pi. 4). The 
outer ring consists of dwelling-houses, the inner of store- 

^ For further references to this eminent personage and for an account 
of chieftainship, see C. G. Seligman, op. cit., chapters xlix and li ; also 
my Argonauts of the Western Pacific, passim, and "Baloma, Spirits of 
the Dead." Journ. R, Anthrop. Inst.^ 1916. 


huts in which the taytu^ a variety of yam, which forms 
the staple food of the natives, is kept from one harvest 
to the next. We are struck at once by the better finish, 
the greater constructive elaboration, and the superior em- 
bellishment and decoration which distinguish the yam- 
houses from the dwellings (see pi. 31). As we stand on 
the wide central space we can admire the circular row of 
storehouses in front of us, for both these and the dwell- 
ings always face the centre. In Omarakana a big yam- 
house belonging to the chief stands in the middle of this 
space. Somewhat nearer the ring, but still well in the 
centre stands another large building, the chief's living 
hut (see pis. i and 2). 

This singularly symmetrical arrangement of the village 
is of importance, for it represents a definite sociological 
scheme. The inner place is the scene of the public and 
festive life. A part of it is the old-time burial ground 
of the villagers, and at one end is the dancing ground, 
the scene of all ceremonial and festive celebrations. The 
houses which surround it, the inner ring of store-huts that 
is, share its quasi-sacred character, a number of taboos 
being placed upon them. The street between the two 
rows is the theatre of domestic life and everyday occur- 
rence (see pis. 4 and 39). Without over-labouring the 
point, the central place might be called the male portion 
of the village and the street that of the women. 

Let us now make preliminary acquaintance with some 
of the more important inhabitants of Omarakana, be- 
ginning with the present chief, To'uluwa (see pis. 2 and 
41). Not only are he and his family the most prominent 



members of the community^ but they occupy more than 
half of the village. As we shall see (ch. v, sec. 4), the 
chiefs in the Trobriands have the privilege of polygamy. 
To'uluwa, who lives in the large house in the middle of 
the village, has a number of wives who occupy a whole 
row of huts (A — B on the plan, fig. i). Also his maternal 
kinsmen, who belong to his family and sub-clan called 
Tabalu, have a separate space in the village for them- 
selves (A — C). The third section (B — C) is inhabited 
by commoners who are not related to the chief either as 
kinsmen or as children. 

The community is thus divided into three parts. The 
first consists of the chief and his maternal kinsmen, the 
Tabalu, all of whom claim the village as their own, and 
consider themselves masters of its soil with all attendant 
privileges. The second consists of the commoners, who 
are themselves divided into two groups: those claiming 
the rights of citizenship on mythological grounds (these 
rights are distinctly inferior to those of the chief's sub- 
clan, and the claimants remain in the village only as the 
chief's vassals or servants) 3 and strangers in the heredi- 
tary service of the chief, who live in the village by that 
right and title. The third part consists of the chief's 
wives and their offspring. 

These wives, by reason of patrilocal marriage, have 
to settle in their husband's village, and with them, of 
course, remain their younger children. But the grown-up 
sons are allowed to stay in the village only through the 
personal influence of their father. This influence over- 
rules the tribal law that every man ought to live in his 



own — that is his mother's — ^village. The chief is always 
much more attached to his children than to his maternal 
kinsmen. He prefers their company j like every typical 
Trobriand father, he takes, sentimentally at least, their 
side in any dispute j and he invariably tries to grant them 
as many privileges and benefits as possible. This state of 
affairs is naturally not altogether appreciated by the 
chief's legal successors, his maternal kinsmen, the children 
of his sister 5 and frequently considerable tension and 
sharp friction arise between the two sections in conse- 

Such a state of tension revealed itself recently in an 
acute upheaval, which shook the quiet tribal life of 
Omarakana and for years undermined its internal har- 
mony.^ There was a feud of long standing between 
Namwana Guya'u, the chief's favourite son, and Mitakata, 
his nephew and third in succession to the rule (see pi. 3). 
Namwana Guya'u was the most influential man in the 
village, after the chief, his father: To'uluwa allowed him 
to wield a great deal of power, and gave him more than 
his share of wealth and privilege. 

One day, about six months after my arrival in Omara- 
kana, the quarrel came acutely to a head. Namwana 
Guya'u, the chief's son, accused his enemy, Mitakata, the 
nephew and one of the heirs, of committing adultery 
with his wife, brought him before the White Resident 
Magistrate, and thereby caused him to be imprisoned for 

1 The following account has been already published (in Crime and 
Custom, pp. loi sq.). Since it is an almost exact reproduction of the 
original entry in my field-notes, I prefer to give it here once more in the 
same form, with a few verbal alterations only. 



a month or so. The news of this imprisonment reached 
the village from the Government compound, a few miles 
distant, at sunset, and created a panic. The chief shut 
himself up in his personal hut, full of evil forebodings 
for his favourite, who had thus rashly outraged tribal 
law and feeling. The kinsmen of the imprisoned heir 
to chieftainship were boiling with suppressed anger and 
indignation. As night fell, the subdued villagers settled 
down to a silent supper, each family over its solitary 
meal. There was nobody on the central place. Nam- 
wana Guya'u was not to be seen, the chief To'uluwa re- 
mained secluded in his hut, most of his wives and their 
children staying indoors also. Suddenly a loud voice 
rang out across the silent village. Bagido'u, the heir 
apparent and eldest brother of the imprisoned man, stand- 
ing before his hut, cried out, addressing the offender of 
his family: 

"Namwana Guya'u, you are a cause of trouble. We, 
the Tabalu of Omarakana, allowed you to stay here, to 
live among us. You had plenty of food in Omarakana. 
You ate of our food. You partook of the pigs brought 
to us as a tribute, and of the flesh. You sailed in our 
canoe. You built a hut on our soil. Now you have done 
us harm. You have told lies. Mitakata is in prison. We 
do not want you to stay here. This is our village! You 
are a stranger here. Go away! We drive you away! 
We drive you out of Omarakana." 

These words were uttered in a loud, piercing voice, 
which trembled with strong emotion: each short sentence 
was spoken after a pause j each, like an individual missile, 



was hurled across the empty space to the hut where 
Namwana Guya'u sat brooding. Next, the younger sister 
of Mitakata rose and spoke, and then a young man, one 
of their maternal nephews. Their words were in each 
case almost the same as Bagido'u's, the burden being the 
formula of dismissal or driving away, the yoha. These 
speeches were received in deep silence. Nothing stirred 
in the village. But, before the night was over, Namwana 
Guya'u had left Omarakana for ever. He had gone over 
and settled a few miles away, in Osapola, his "own" vil- 
lage, whence his mother came. For weeks she and his 
sister wailed for him with loud lamentations as for the 
dead. The chief remained for three days in his hut, and 
when he came out he looked aged and broken by grief. 
All his personal interest and affection were on the side 
of his favourite son, yet he could do nothing to help him. 
His kinsmen had acted strictly within their rights, and, 
according to tribal law, he could not possibly dissociate 
himself from them. No power could change the decree 
of exile. Once the words "Go away" — huhula^ "we drive 
thee away" — kayabaimy had been pronounced, the man 
had to go. These words, very rarely uttered in earnest, 
have a binding force and an almost ritual power when 
pronounced by citizens against a resident outsider. A 
man who would try to brave the dreadful insult involved 
in them and remain in spite of them, would be dis- 
honoured for ever. In fact, anything but immediate 
compliance with a ritual request is unthinkable for a Tro- 
briand Islander. 

The chief's resentment against his kinsmen was deep 



and lasting. At first he would not even speak to them.' 
For a year or so, not one of them dared to ask to be taken 
on overseas expeditions by him, although they were fully 
entitled to this privilege. Two years later, in 191 7, when 
I returned to the Trobriands, Namwana Guya'u was still 
resident in the other village and keeping aloof from his 
father's kinsmen, though he frequently visited Omarakana 
in order to be in attendance on his father, especially when 
To'uluwa went abroad. His mother had died within a 
year after his expulsion. As the natives described it: 
"She wailed and wailed, refused to eat, and died." The 
relations between the two main enemies were completely 
broken, and Mitakata, the young chieftain who had been 
imprisoned, had repudiated his wife, who belonged to the 
same sub-clan as Namwana Guya'u. There was a deep 
rift in the whole social life of Kiriwina. 

This incident was one of the most dramatic which I 
have ever witnessed in the Trobriands. I have described 
it at length, as it contains a striking illustration of the 
nature of mother-right, of the power of tribal law, and 
of the passions which work against and in spite of these. 
It shows also the deep, personal attachment which a father 
feels for his children, the tendency which he has to use 
all his personal influence to give them a strong position 
in the village, the opposition which this always evokes 
among his maternal kinsmen, and the tension and rifts 
thus brought about. Under normal conditions, in a 
smaller community where the contending powers are 
humbler and less important, such tension would merely 
mean that, after the father's death, the children would 



have to return to his maternal kinsmen practically all the: 
material benefits they had received from him during his 
lifetime. In any case, a good deal of discontent and 
friction and many roundabout methods of settlement are 
involved in this dual play of paternal affection and matri- 
lineal authority: the chief's son and his maternal nephew 
can be described as predestined enemies. 

This theme will recur in the progress of the following 
narrative. In discussing consent to marriage, we shall 
see the importance of paternal authority and the functions 
of the matrilineal kinsmen. The custom of cross-cousin 
marriage is a traditional reconciliation of the two oppos- 
ing principles. The sexual taboos and prohibitions of 
incest also cannot be understood without a clear grasp of 
the principles discussed in this section. 

So far we have met To'uluwa, his favourite wife 
Kadamwasila, whose death followed on the village 
tragedy, their son Namwana Guya'u, and his enemy 
Mitakata, son of the chief's sister, and these we shall 
meet again, for they were among my best informants. 
We shall also become acquainted with the other sons of 
the chief, and of his favourite wife, and with some of his 
maternal kinsmen and kinswomen. We shall follow sev- 
eral of them in their love affairs, and in their marriage 
arrangements j we shall have to pry into their domestic 
scandals, and to take an indiscreet interest in their intimate 
life. For all of them were, during a long period, under 
ethnographic observation, and I obtained much of my 
material through their confidences, and especially from 
their mutual scandal-mongering. 



Many examples will also be given from other com- 
munities, and we shall make frequent visits to the lagoon 
villages of the western shore, to places on the south of 
the island, and to some of the neighbouring smaller islands 
of the Archipelago. In all these other communities more 
uniform and democratic conditions prevail, and this makes 
some difference in the character of their sexual life. 


In entering the village we had to pass across the street 
between the two concentric rows of houses/ This is the 
normal setting of the everyday life of the community, and 
thither we must return in order to make a closer survey 
of the groups of people sitting in front of their dwellings 
(see pi. 4). As a rule we find that each group consists 
of one family only — ^man, wife, and children — taking 
their leisure, or engaged in some domestic activity which 
varies with the time of day. On a fine morning we would 
see them hastily eating a scanty breakfast, and then the 
man and woman preparing the implements for the day's 
work, with the help of the bigger children, while the 
baby is laid out of the way on a mat. Afterwards, during 
the cool hours of the forenoon, each family would prob- 
ably set off to their work, leaving the village almost 
deserted. The man, in company with others, may be 
fishing or hunting or building a canoe or looking for 

1 A good glimpse of the "street," can be obtained on pi. 12, where two 
dwelling huts, right and left, can be seen behind the two yam houses in 
the middle. 



timber. The woman may have gone collecting shell-fish 
or wild fruits. Or else both may be working in the 
gardens, or paying a visit. The man often does harder 
work than the woman, but when they return in the hot 
hours of the afternoon he will rest, while the woman 
busies herself with household aflFairs. Towards evening, 
when the descending sun casts longer, cooler shadows, the 
social life of the village begins. At this time we would 
see our family group in front of their hut, the wife 
preparing food, the children playing, the husband, per- 
haps, seated amusing the smallest baby. This is the time 
when neighbours call on one another, and conversation 
may be exchanged from group to group. 

The frank and friendly tone of intercourse, the obvious 
feeling of equality, the father's domestic helpfulness, 
especially with the children, would at once strike any 
observant visitor. The wife joins freely in the jokes 
and conversation 5 she does her work independently, not 
with the air of a slave or a servant, but as one who man- 
ages her own department. She will order the husband 
about if she needs his help. Close observation, day after 
day, confirms this first impression. The typical Trobriand 
household is founded on the principles of equality and 
independence of function: the man is considered to be 
the master, for he is in his own village and the house 
belongs to him, but the woman has, in other respects, a 
considerable influence 5 she and her family have a great 
deal to do with the food supply of the household^ she is 
the owner of separate possessions in the house 5 and she 
is — ^next to her brother — ^the legal head of her family. 



The division of functions within the household is, in 
certain matters, quite definite. The woman has to cook 
the food, which is simple, and does not require much 
preparation. The main meal is taken at sunset, and con- 
sists of yams, taro, or other tubers, roasted in the open 
fire — or, less frequently, boiled in a small pot, or baked 
in the ground — ^with the occasional addition of fish or 
meat. Next morning the remains are eaten cold, and 
sometimes, though not regularly, fruit, shell-fish, or some 
other light snack may be taken at mid-day. 

In some circumstances, men can and do prepare and 
cook the food: on journeys, oversea voyages, fishing or 
hunting expeditions, when they are without their women 
folk. Also, on certain occasions, when taro or sago 
dumplings are cooked in the large clay pots, men are 
required by tradition to assist their wives (pi. 5). But 
within the village and in normal daily life the man never 
cooks. It would be considered shameful for him to do so. 
"You are a he-cook {tokakabwasi yoku) would be said 
tauntingly. The fear of deserving such an epithet, of 
being laughed at or shamed {kakayuwa)^ is extreme. It 
arises from the characteristic dread and shame, found 
among savages, of not doing the proper thing, or, worse 
still, of doing something which is intrinsically the attribute 
of another sex or social class (see ch. xiii, sees. 1-4). 

There are a number of occupations strictly assigned by 
tribal custom to one sex only. The manner of carrying 
loads is a very noteworthy example. Women have to 
carry the special feminine receptacle, the bell-shaped 
basket, or any other kind of load upon their heads 5 men 



must carry only on the shoulder (pis. 6, 7, and 28). It 
would be with a real shudder, and a profound feeling of 
shame, that an individual would regard carrying anything 
in the manner proper to the opposite sex and nothing 
would induce a man to put any load on his head, even 
in fun. 

An exclusively feminine department is the water 
supply. The woman has the water bottles of the house- 
hold in her charge. These are made out of the woody 
shell of a mature coconut, with a stopper of twisted palm- 
leaf. In the morning or near sunset she goes, sometimes 
a full half-mile, to fill them at the water-hole: here the 
women forgather, resting and chatting, while one after 
another fills her water-vessels, cleans them, arranges 
them in baskets or on large wooden platters, and, just 
before leaving, gives the cluster a final sprinkling of water 
to cover it with a suggestive gloss of freshness. The 
water-hole is the woman's club and centre of gossip, and 
as such is important, for there is a distinct woman's public 
opinion and point of view in a Trobriand village, and they 
have their secrets from the male, just as the male has 
from the female. 

We have already seen that the husband fully shares 
in the care of the children. He will fondle and carry 
a baby, clean and wash it, and give it the mashed vege- 
table food which it receives in addition to the mother's 
milk almost from birth. In fact, nursing the baby in the 
arms or holding it on the knees, which is described by the 
native word kofo^y is the special role and duty of the 
father {tamo). It is said of the children of unmarried 



women who, according to the native expression, are "with- 
out a tama*^ (that is, it must be remembered, without a 
husband to their mother), that they are "unfortunate" or 
"bad" because "there is no one to nurse and hug them 
{gala lay tola bikofoH)?^ Again, if anyone inquires why 
children should have duties towards their father, who is 
a "stranger" to them, the answer is invariably: "because of 
the nursing {fela kofo^t)^'^ "because his hands have been 
soiled with the child's excrement and urine" (cf. ch. vii). 

The father performs his duties with genuine natural 
fondness : he will carry an infant about for hours, looking 
at it with eyes full of such love and pride as are seldom 
seen in those of a European father. Any praise of the 
baby goes directly to his heart, and he will never tire of 
talking about and exhibiting the virtues and achievements 
of his wife's offspring. Indeed, watching a native family 
at home or meeting them on the road, one receives a 
strong impression of close union and intimacy between its 
members (see pis. 7, 26). Nor, as we have seen, does this 
mutual affection abate in later years. Thus, in the in- 
timacy of domestic life, we discover another aspect of the 
interesting and complicated struggle between social and 
emotional paternity, on the one hand, and the explicitly 
acknowledged legal mother-right on the other. 

It will be noticed that we have not yet penetrated into 
the interior of a house, for in fine weather the scene of 
family life is always laid in front of the dwelling. Only 
when it is cold and raining, at night, or for intimate uses, 
do the natives retire into the interior. On a wet or windy 
evening in the cooler season we should find the village 



streets deserted, dim lights flickering through small inter- 
stices in the hut walls, and voices sounding from within in 
animated conversation. Inside, in a small space heavy 
with dense smoke and human exhalation, the people sit on 
the floor round the fire or recline on bedsteads covered 
with mats. 

The houses are built directly on the ground and their 
floors are of beaten earth. On the adjoining diagrammatic 
plan (fig. ii) we see the main items of their very simple 
furniture: the fireplace, which is simply a ring of small 
stones with three large ones to support a potj wooden 
sleeping bunks, placed one over another against the 
back and side walls opposite the fireplace (cf. pi. 8) and 
one or two shelves for nets, cooking pots, women's grass 
petticoats, and other household objects. The chief's per- 
sonal dwelling is built like an ordinary house, but is 
larger. The yam houses are of somewhat different and 
more complicated construction, and are slightly raised 
above the ground. 

A normal day in a typical household forces the family 
to live in close intimacy — they sleep in the same hut, they 
eat in common and spend the best part both of their 
working and of their leisure hours together. 



Members of the household are also bound together by 
community of economic interest. On this point, how- 


riGURE 11 




( 1 ^ 



-f % • 



ich. h i\ 


ever, a more detailed statement is necessary, as the sub- 
ject is important and complicated. To begin with the 
right of ownership, it must be realized that personal pos- 
session is a matter of great importance to the native. The 
title toU- ("owner" or "master," used as a prefix to the 
objea possessed) has a considerable value in itself as con- 
ferring a sort of distinction, even when it does not give 
a claim to rights of exclusive use. This term and the con- 
ception of ownership are, in every particular case, very 
well defined, but the relationship varies with different 
objects, and it is impossible to summarize it in one for- 
mula covering all cases.^ 

It is remarkable that in spite of the close union within 
the household, domestic utensils and the many objects lit- 
tering the hut are not owned in common. Husband and 
wife have each his or her own possessions. The wife 
owns her grass petticoats, of which there are usually 
some twelve to twenty in her wardrobe, for use on various 
occasions. Also she relies on her own skill and industry 
to procure them. So that in the question of toilet, a Kir- 
winian lady depends solely upon herself. The water ves- 
sels, the implements for dressmaking, a number of articles 
of personal adornment, are also her own property. The 
man owns his tools, the axe and adze, the nets, the spears, 
the dancing ornaments, and the drum, and also those 
objects of high value, called by the natives vaygu^a, which 
consist of necklaces, belts, armshells, and large polished 

Nor is private ownership in this case a mere word 

^ Cf. Argonauts of the Western Pacific, ch. vi, and passim. 



without practical significance. The husband and the wife 
can and do dispose of any article of their own property, 
and after the death of one of them the objects are not 
inherited by the partner, but distributed among a special 
class of heirs. When there is a domestic quarrel a man 
may destroy some of his wife's property — he may wreak 
his vengeance on the water bottles or on the grass petti- 
coats — and she may smash his drum or break his dancing 
shield. A man also has to repair and keep his own things 
in order, so that the woman is not the housekeeper in the 
general European sense. 

Immovable goods, such as garden-land, trees, houses, 
as well as sailing-vessels, are owned almost exclusively by 
men, as is also the live stock, which consists mainly of pigs. 
We shall have to touch on this subject again, when we 
speak of the social position of women, for ownership of 
such things goes with power. 

Passing now from economic rights to duties, let us 
consider the partition of work according to sex. In the 
heavier type of labour, such as gardening, fishing, and 
carrying of considerable loads, there is a definite division 
between man and woman. Fishing and hunting, the latter 
of very slight importance in the Trobriands, are done by 
men, while only women engage in the search for marine 
shell-fish. In gardening, the heaviest work, such as cut- 
ting the scrub, making fences, fetching the heavy yam 
supports, and planting the tubers, is done exclusively by 
men. Weeding is the women's special duty, while some 
of the intermediate stages, in which the plants have to be 
looked after, are performed by mixed male and female 



labour. Men do such tending as there is to be done of the 
COCO'- and areca-nut palms and o£ the fruit-trees, while 
it is chiefly the women who look after the pigs. 

All oversea expeditions are made by men, and the 
building of canoes is entirely their business. Men have to 
do most of the trading, especially the important exchange 
of vegetable food for fish which takes place between the 
inland and coastal villagers. In the building of houses, 
the framework is made by men, and the women help with 
the thatching. Both sexes share in the carrying of bur- 
dens^ the men shoulder the heavier ones, while the women 
make up by carrying more frequently. And, as we have 
seen, there is a characteristic sexual distinction in the mode 
of placing the burden. 

As regards the minor work of manufacturing small 
objects, the women have to make the mats and plait the 
armlets and belts. Of course, they alone fashion their 
personal dress, just as men have to tailor their own not 
very extensive but very carefully finished garment, the 
pubic leaf. Men do the wood carving, even in the case 
of objects used exclusively by women j they manufacture 
lime gourds for betel chewing and, in the old days, they 
used to polish and sharpen all stone implements. 

This specialization of work according to sex gives, at 
certain seasons, a characteristic and picturesque touch to 
village life. When harvest approaches new skirts of the 
coloured variety have to be made, ready to wear when the 
crops are brought in and at the subsequent festivities. 
Quantities of banana and pandanus leaf are brought to 
the villages, and are there bleached and toughened at the 
fire. At night the whole village is bright with the shining 



of these fires, at each of which a couple of women sit 
opposite each other and pass the leaf to and fro in front 
of the flame (see pi. 9). Loud chatter and song enlivens 
the work, gay with the anticipation of the coming enter- 
tainments. When the material is ready, it has still to be 
cut, trimmed, and dyed. Two kinds of roots are brought 
from the bush for the dyeing, one giving a deep purple, 
and the other a bright crimson. The dye is mixed in 
large bowls made of giant clam shells 5 in these the leaf 
strips are steeped, and then they are hung up in thick 
bunches to dry in the central place, enlivening the whole 
village with their gay colour (see pi. 10). After a very 
complex process of piecing together, a resplendent "crea- 
tion" results 3 the golden yellow of the pandanus, the soft 
hay-green or dun of the banana-leaf, the crimson and 
purple of the dyed layers form a really beautiful har- 
mony of colour against the smooth, brown skin of the 

Some manufactures are carried out by men and women 
together. Both sexes, for example, take part in the 
elaborate process which is necessary in preparing certain 
shell ornaments,^ while nets and water-vessels may be 
made by either sex. 

It will have been seen, then, that women do not bear 
the brunt of all the drudgery and hard work. Indeed, 
the heaviest tasks in the gardens and the most monotonous 
ones are performed by men. On the other hand, women 
have their own province in economic activity 5 it is a con- 
spicuous one, and through it they assert their status and 

^ Cf. ch. XV of Argonauts of the Western Pacific, 




The ideas of the native concerning kinship and descent, 
with their assertion of the mother's exclusive part in 
propagation 5 the position of woman within the household, 
and her considerable share in economic life: these imply 
that woman plays an influential role in the community, 
and that her status cannot be low or unimportant. In this 
section it will be necessary to consider her legal status 
and her position in the tribe 5 that is, her rank, her power, 
and her social independence of man. 

In the first section of the previous chapter we have dis- 
cussed the kinship ideas of the natives, founded on the 
matrilineal principle that everything descends through the 
mother. We have also seen that the real guardianship 
of her family remains not with herself, but with her 
brother. This can be generalized into the formula that, 
in each generation, woman continues the line and man rep- 
resents itj or, in other words, that the power and func- 
tions which belong to a family are vested in the men of 
each generation, though they have to be transmitted by 
the women. 



Let US examine some of the consequences of this prin- 
ciple. For the continuation and very existence of the 



family, woman as well as man is indispensable 5 there- 
fore both sexes are regarded by the natives as being of 
equal value and importance. When you discuss genealo- 
gies with a native, the question of continuity of line is 
constantly considered in relation to the number of women 
alive. This was noticeable whenever a man of a sub-clan 
of high rank, such as the Tabalu of Omarakana, discussed 
the ethnographic census of its members with me: the fact 
that there was a great number of women would be em- 
phasized with pleasure, and said to be good and impor- 
tant. That there were only two women of that sub-clan 
of high rank in Omarakana, while there were several male 
members, was obviously a sore point, and every Tabalu 
informant volunteered the statement that there were, how- 
ever, more women in the younger line of Olivilevi, a 
village in the south of the island also ruled by the Tabalu. 
A man of any clan would often, in speaking of his family 
relations, expatiate on the number of his sisters and of 
their female children as being a matter of real importance 
to his lineage. Thus girls are quite as welcome at birth as 
boys, and no difference is made between them by the 
parents in interest, enthusiasm, or affection. It is needless 
to add that the idea of female infanticide would be as 
absurd as abhorrent to the natives. 

The general rule that women hand on the privileges 
of the family and men exercise them, must be examined 
as it works. When that is done we shall be able to under- 
stand the principle better and even to qualify it somewhat. 
The idea of rank — that is, of an intrinsic, social superiority 
of certain people as their birthright — ^is very highly deveL 



oped among the Trobriand Islanders 3 and a consideration 
of the way in which rank aflFects the individual will best 
explain the working of the general principle. 

Rank is associated with definite hereditary groups of 
a totemic nature, which have already been designated here 
as sub-clans (see also ch. xiii, sec. 5). Each sub-clan has 
a definite rank 3 it claims to be higher than some, and 
admits its inferiority to others. Five or six main cate- 
gories of rank can, broadly speaking, be distinguished, and 
within these the minor grades are of but small impor- 
tance. For the sake of brevity and clarity, I shall chiefly 
concern myself with a comparison of the sub-clan of 
Tabalu, the highest of all in rank, with its inferiors. 

Every village community "belongs to" or is "owned 
by" one such sub-clan, and the eldest male is the headman 
of the village. When the sub-clan is of highest rank, its 
oldest male not only is headman of his own village, but 
exercises over-rule in a whole district, and is what we 
have called a chief. Chieftainship and rank are, there- 
fore, closely associated, and rank carries with it, not only 
social distinction, but also the right to rule. Now, one of 
these two attributes, but one only, social distinction, is 
shared by men and women alike. Every woman of the 
highest rank, that of Tabalu, enjoys all the personal 
privileges of nobility. The male members of the clan 
will perhaps say that man is more aristocratic, more 
guya^u than woman, but probably this merely expresses 
the general assumption of male superiority. In all con- 
crete manifestations of rank, whether traditional or social, 
the two sexes are equal. In the extensive mythology re- 



f erring to the origin of the various sub-clans, a woman 
ancestress always figures beside the man (her brother), 
and there are even myths in which a woman alone inau- 
^, ^urates a line.^ 

Another important manifestation of rank is the complex 
system of taboos, and this is equally binding on man and 
woman. The taboos of rank include numerous prohibi- 
tions in the matter of food, certain animals especially being 
forbidden, and there are some other notable restrictions, 
such as that prohibiting the use of any water except from 
water-holes in the coral ridge. These taboos are enforced 
by supernatural sanction, and illness follows their breach, 
even if it be accidental. But the real force by which they 
are maintained is a strong conviction on the part of the 
taboo keeper that the forbidden food is intrinsically in- 
ferior, that it is disgusting and defiling in itself. When it 
is suggested to a Tabalu that he should eat of stingaree 
or bush pig he shows unmistakable signs of repulsion 3 and 
cases are quoted in which a man of rank has vomited, with 
every sign of nausea, some forbidden substance which he 
had taken unwittingly. A citizen of Omarakana will 
speak of the stingaree eaters of the lagoon villages with 
the same disgusted contempt as the right-minded Briton 
uses towards the frog- and snail-eaters of France, or the 
European towards the puppy- and rotten-egg-eaters of 

Now a woman of rank fully shares in this disgust, and 
in the danger from breaking a taboo. If, as does occa- 
sionally happen, she marries a man of lower rank, she 

^ Cf. my Myth in Primitive Psychology, ch. ii 



must have all food, all cooking utensils, dishes, and drink- 
ing vessels separate from her husband, or else he must 
forgo all such diet as is taboo to herj the latter is the 
course more usually adopted. 

Rank entitles its possessors to certain ornaments, which 
serve both as its insignia and as festive decorations. For 
instance, a certain kind of shell ornament, the red spondy- 
lus shell-discs, may only be worn on the forehead and on 
the occiput by people of the highest rank. As belts and 
armlets they are also permitted to those next in rank. 
Again, an armlet on the forearm is a mark of the first 
aristocracy. Varieties and distinctions in personal adorn- 
ment are very numerous, but it will be enough to say here 
that they are observed in exactly the same manner by male 
and female, though the ornaments are more frequently 
made use of by the latter. 

Certain house decorations, on the other hand, such as 
carved boards and ornaments of shell (pis. 2, 20, and 23), 
which are in pattern and material exclusive to the several 
higher ranks, are primarily made use of by the male 
representatives. But a woman of rank who marries a 
commoner would be fully entitled to have them on her 

The very important and elaborate ceremonial of respect 
observed towards people of rank is based on the idea that 
a man of noble lineage must always remain on a physically 
higher level than his inferiors. In the presence of a noble, 
all people of lower rank have to bow the head or bend 
the body or squat on the ground, according to the degree 
of their inferiority. On no account must any head reach 



higher than that of the chief. Tall platforms are always 
built on to the chief's house, and on one of these he will 
sit so that the people may freely move below him during 
tribal gatherings (see pi. 2, where we see the chief lean- 
ing against such a platform). When a commoner passes 
a group of nobles seated on the ground, even at a dis- 
tance, he has to call out tokay ("arise"), and the chiefs 
immediately scramble to their feet and remain standing 
while he crouches past them.^ One would think that so 
uncomfortable a ceremonial of homage would have been 
circumvented in some way 3 but this is not the case. Many 
times when I was sitting in the village in conversation with 
the chief, a commoner would pass through the village 
grove, and call out tokay ^ and though this would happen 
every quarter of an hour or so, my friend had to rise while 
the other, bending low, walked slowly by.^ 

Women of rank enjoy exactly the same privilege in 
this matter. When a noblewoman is married to a com- 
moner, her husband has to bend before her in public, and 
others have to be still more careful to do so. A high 
platform is erected for her and she sits upon it alone at 
tribal assemblies, while her husband moves or squats be- 
low with the rest of the crowd. 

^ Tokay, as noun, also means "commoner." The noun is perhaps de- 
rived etymologically from the verb. 

2 When To'uluwa, the paramount chief of the Trobriands, was put in 
jail by the resident magistrate, the latter, mostly, I am afraid, because he 
wanted to humiliate his native rival, forbade the commoners incarcerated 
with the chief to crouch before him. In spite of this, I have been told 
on good authority by several eye-witnesses that all the commoners in jail 
did constantly move bending, except when the white satrap appeared upon 
the scene. This is an example of the short-sighted policy of^ the typical 
white official, who thinks that his authority can only be maintained at the 
expense of the native chiefs, and thus undermines native tribal law and 
introduces a spirit of anarchy. 



The sanctity of the chief's person is particularly local- 
ized in his head, which is surrounded by a halo of strict 
taboos. More especially sacred are the forehead and the 
occiput with the neck. Only equals in rank, the wives and 
a few particularly privileged persons, are allowed to touch 
these parts, for purposes of cleaning, shaving, ornamenta- 
tion, and delousing. This sanctity of the head extends to 
the female members of the noble sub-clans, and if a 
noblewoman marries a commoner, her brow, her occiput, 
her neck and shoulders, should not — in theory at least — 
be touched by the husband even during the most intimate 
phases of conjugal life. 

Thus in myth, in the observation of taboo, and in the 
ceremonial of bending, the woman enjoys exactly the same 
privileges of rank as the man 3 but she never exercises 
the actual power associated with it. No woman is ever the 
head of any sub-clan, and thus she cannot be a chief tainess. 
What would happen should there be no male members in 
a given generation I cannot say, for there are no actual 
cases of this on record j but the interim regency of a woman 
seems by no means incompatible with the ideas of the 
Trobrianders. But, as we shall see later on (ch. v, sec. 4), 
the privilege of polygamy is the foundation of a chief's or 
iieadman's power, and women, of course, have no such 
similar privilege of polyandry. 

Many other social functions of rank are directly exer- 
cised by men alone, the women participating only in the 
social prestige. Thus ownership of canoes, for instance, 
as vested in the headman — ^though all the villagers enjoy 
definite rights in them — ^but his kinswomen only have 



the benefit of the renown (hutura)^ that is, the privilege 
of talking in proprietary terms of the canoes and of boast- 
ing about them.^ Only in exceptional cases do they accom- 
pany their men-folk on oversea expeditions. Again, all 
sorts of rights, privileges, and activities connected with 
the kulay a special system of exchange in valuables, are 
the prerogatives of men. The woman, whether the man's 
wife or sister, is only occasionally drawn personally into 
the matter. For the most part she but basks in reflected 
glory and satisfaction. In war, men have the field of 
action entirely to themselves, though the women witness 
all the preparations and preliminary ceremonies, and even 
take an occasional peep at the battlefield itself.^ 

It is important to note that in this section, when com- 
paring the parts played by the sexes, we have had quite as 
often to set the brother and sister side by side as the hus- 
band and wife. Within the matrilineal order, the brother 
and the sister are the naturally linked representatives of 
the male and female principle respectively in all legal 
and customary matters. In the myths concerning the 
origin of families, the brother and sister emerge together 
from underground, through the original hole in the earth. 
In family matters, the brother is the natural guardian and 
head of his sister's household, and of her children. In 
tribal usage, their respective duties and obligations are 
strictly regulated, and these form, as we shall see, one of 

1 These questions have been discussed in detail in Argonauts of the 
Western Pacific, ch. iv, sees, iv and v, and ch. xi, sec. ii. Cf. also ch. vi 
of that book, and Crime and Custom. 

2 For a full description of the kula, see Argonauts; fighting has been 
described in the article on "War and Weapons Among the Natives of the 
Trobriand Islands," Man, 1920. 



the main strands in the social fabric. But in their personal 
relations the strictest taboo divides brother from sister — 
and prevents any sort of intimacy between them/ 

As woman is debarred from the exercise of power, land 
ownership, and many other public privileges, it follows 
that she has no place at tribal gatherings and no voice 
in such public deliberations as are held in connection with 
gardening, fishing, hunting, oversea expeditions, war, cere- 
monial trade, festivities and dances. 


On the other hand, there are certain ceremonial and 
festive activities in connection with which women have 
a great deal both to say and to do. The most important 
of these in solemnity and sanctity, as well as the most 
imposing in display and extent, are the mortuary cere- 
monies. In the tending of the corpse, the parade of grief, 
the burial with its manifold rites and long series of cere- 
monial food distributions: in all these activities, which 
begin immediately after the death of any important tribes- 
man and continue at intervals for months or ^ven years 
afterwards, women play a large part and have their own 
definite duties to fulfil. Certain women, standing in a 
special relationship to the deceased, have to hold the corpse 
on their knees, and fondle itj and while the corpse is 
tended in the hut, another category of female relatives 
performs a remarkable rite of mourning outside: a number 

1 Cf. ch. xiii, sec. 6, and ch. xlv. 



of them, some in couples facing each other and some 
singly, move in a slow dance, forwards and backwards 
across the central place, to the rhythm of the wailing dirge 
(see pi. 1 1). As a rule, each of them carries in her hand 
some object worn or possessed by the deceased. Such 
relics play a great part in mourning and are worn by the 
women for a long time after their bereavement. The 
wrapping up of the corpse and the subsequent vigil over 
the grave is the duty of yet another category of the dead 
man's womenkind. 

Some functions of burial, notably the gruesome custom 
of cutting up the corpse, are performed by men. In the 
long period of mourning which follows, the burden of the 
dramatic expression of grief falls mostly on the women j 
a widow always mourns longer than a widower, a mother 
longer than a father, a female relative longer than a male 
of the same degree. In the mortuary distributions of food 
and wealth, based on the idea that the members of the 
deceased's sub-clan give payment to the other relatives for 
their share in the mourning, women play a conspicuous 
role, and conduct some parts of the ceremonial distribu- 
tions themselves (see pi. 12). 

I have barely touched on the mortuary ceremonies, as 
we shall have to return to them presently (ch. vi, sees. 
3 and 4), but I have said enough to show how large a 
share women take in this class of religious or ceremonial 
display. Some tribal ceremonies in which women alone 
are active will be described in detail later, and it is only 
necessary here to state briefly that in the long and com- 
plicated ceremonial of first pregnancy (ch. viii, sees. I and 



2) and in the rites o£ beauty magic at festivities (ch. xi, 
sees. 2-4) women are the main actors. On certain occa- 
sions, such as first pregnancy ritual and the first appear- 
ance after childbirth, as well as at big tribal dances and 
kayasa (competitive displays), women appear in full dress 
and decoration (pi. 13), which correspond to the men's 
full festive attire (as seen on pis. 14 and 79). 

An interesting incident occurs during the milamalay the 
annual season of dancing and feasting held after the 
harvest. This period is inaugurated by a ceremony, the 
principal aim of which is to break the taboo on drums. 
In this initial feast there is a distribution of food, and the 
men, adorned in full dancing attire, range themselves for 
the performance, the drummers and the singers in the 
centre of a ring formed by the decorated dancers. As in 
a normal dance, standing in the central place, the singers 
intone a chant, the dancers begin to move slowly and the 
drummers to beat time. But they are not allowed to 
proceed: almost at the first throb of the drums, there 
breaks forth from inside the huts the wailing of those 
women who are still in mourning 5 from behind the inner 
row of houses, a crowd of shrieking, agitated female 
figures rush out and attack the dancers, beat them with 
sticks, and throw coconuts, stones, and pieces of wood at 
them. The men are not bound by custom to display too 
considerable courage and in a trice the drummers, who 
had so solemnly initiated the performance, have entirely 
disappeared j and the village lies empty, for the women 
pursue the fugitives. But the taboo is broken and, on the 



afternoon of the same day, the first undisturbed dance of 
the festivities is held. 

In full dress dancing (see pis. 14, 58, 6$, 73, 82), it 
is mainly the men who display their beauty and skill. In 
some dances, such as those performed in a quick tempo 
with carved dancing boards or with bunches of streamers 
or in conventionalized imitation of animals, men alone 
may participate (pis. 6$, 73, 82). Only in one tradi- 
tional type of dance, for which men put on the fibre pet- 
ticoats of the female (see pis. 3, 58), are women not 
debarred by custom from participation. But though I 
witnessed scores of performances of this type, I only once 
saw a wqmanly actually dance, and she was of the very 
highest rank. As passive witnesses and admirers, how- 
ever, women form a very important adjunct to this form 
of display. 

There are many other long, continuous periods of 
amusement in the Trobriands besides the dancing season, 
and in these women take a more active share. The nature 
of the amusement is fixed in advance, and has to remain 
the same during the whole period. There are different 
kinds of kayasa, as these entertainments are called (see 
ch. ix, sees. 2-4). There is a kayasa in which, evening 
after evening, groups of women, festively adorned, sit on 
mats and sing; in another, men and women, wearing 
wreaths and garlands of flowers, exchange such ornaments 
with each other 5 or a kayasa is announced, the main theme 
of which is a general daily display of a certain type of 
ornament. Sometimes the members of a community pre- 
pare small toy sailing canoes and hold a miniature regatta 



daily on shallow water. There can be also a kayasa of 
erotic pastimes. Some of these entertainments are exclu- 
sively feminine (singing and certain ornaments) j in others 
both sexes participate (flowers, erotics, and hair decora- 
tion) j in others only men (the toy canoes). 

In all the public festivals and entertainments, whether 
women take an active part or no, they are never excluded 
from looking on or freely mixing with the men 5 and this 
they do on terms of perfect equality, exchanging banter 
and jokes with them and engaging in easy conversation. 

One aspect of public life is very important to the 
Trobriander and stands apart as something peculiar and 
specific. The native sets on one side a certain category 
of facts, one type of human behaviour, and designates 
these by the word megway which may be quite adequately 
translated as "magic." Magic is very intimately associated 
with economic life and indeed with every vital concern 5 it 
is also an instrument of power and an index of the im- 
portance of those who practise it. The position of women 
in magic deserves therefore very special consideration. 

Magic constitutes a particular aspect of reality. In all 
important activities and enterprises in which man has not 
the issue firmly and safely in hand, magic is deemed 
indispensable. Thus appeal is m'ade to it in gardening 
and fishing, in building a large canoe, and in diving for 
valuable shell, in the regulation of wind and weather, in 



war, in matters of love and personal attraction, in secur- 
ing safety at sea and the success of any great enterprise j 
and, last but not least, in health and for the infliction of 
ailments upon an enemy. Success and safety in all these 
matters is largely and sometimes entirely dependent upon 
magic, and can be controlled by its proper application. 
Fortune or failure, dearth or plenty, health or disease are 
felt and believed to be mainly due to the right magic 
rightly applied in the right circumstances. 

Magic consists of spells and rites performed by a man 
who is entitled by the fulfilment of several conditions to 
perform them. Magical power resides primarily in the 
words of the formula, and the function of the rite, which 
is as a rule very simple, is mainly to convey the magician's 
breath, charged with the power of the words, to the 
object or person to be affected. All magical spells are, 
believed to have descended unchanged from time imme- 
morial, from the beginning of things. 

This last point has its sociological corollary 5 several 
systems of magic are hereditary, each in a special sub- 
clan, and such a system has been possessed by that sub-clan 
since the time it came out from underground. • It can only 
be performed by a member, and is, of course, one of the 
valued attributes and possessions of the sub-clan itself. 
It is handed on in the female line, though usually, as with 
other forms of power and possession, it is exercised by 
men alone. But in a few cases such hereditary magic can 
also be practised by women. 

The power given by magic to its performer is not due 
merely to the effects of its specific influence. In the most 



important types of magic the rites are intimately inter- 
woven with the activities which they accompany and are 
not merely superimposed upon them. Thus, in garden 
magic, the officiator plays an economically and socially 
important role and is the organizer and director of the 
work. It is the same in the building of a canoe and its 
magic, and in the rites associated with the conduct of an 
oversea expedition: the man who technically directs and is 
the leader of the enterprise has also the duty or privilege 
of performing the magic."^ Both functions, the directive 
and the magical, are indivisibly united in the same person. 
In other types of magic, which are placed by the natives 
in the category of buluhwalata (black magic) — ^and this 
comprises all sorcery and, among others, the charms for 
drought or rain — the practitioner has an immense and 
direct influence over other tribesmen. Magic is indeed 
by far the most efficient and frequently used instrument 
of power. 

As magic is so intimately bound up with the activity 
which it accompanies, it is clear that, in certain types of 
occupation, the division of functions between the sexes 
will involve a corresponding division in magical per- 
formance. Those types of work which customarily only 
men perform will demand a man as officiating magician 5 
where women are occupied with their own business, the 
magician must be female. Thus, looking at the table 
given below, we see that in fishing and hunting, as well 
as in wood carving, activities in which no woman ever 
participates, magic is exclusively practised by men. War 

1 Cf. Argonauts of the Western Paci^c, csp. chs. iv, r, vii, and xvii. 



magic, too, which is now in abeyance, was an hereditary 
system of spells and rites always practised by a man of a 
certain sub-clan. The long and complex series of spells 
which accompany the building of a sea-going canoe can 
never be made by a v/oman, and, as no woman ever goes- 
on a ceremonial overseas expedition, the magic of safety 
and of kula which then has to be performed can only be 
done by a man. 

Division of Magic Between the Sexes 


Public garden magic 

( Towosi) 
Canoe building 
Magic of kula 

Weather (sun and 


War magic (Boma) 
Safety at sea 

Wood carving {Kabi- 

Sorcery {Bivaga'u) 


Rites of first preg- 

Skirt making 

Prevention of dangers 
at birth 


Elephantiasis, swell- 

Affections of the geni- 
tals with discharge 


Female witchcraft 
{Yoyova or Muluk- 


Beauty magic 

Love magic 

Private garden magic 

Again there are some important types of magic which 
are obviously adapted to female hands and lips, for they 
are attached to activities or functions which by their nature 
or by social convention exclude the presence of men. Such 
is the magic associated with the ceremony of first preg- 
nancy (see ch. viii, sees, i and 2) 5 the magic of the expert 
which gives skill in the manufacture of fibre petticoats j 
and the magic of abortion. 

There are, however, mixed spheres of activity and in- 



fluence, such as gardening or love-making, the control of 
the weather or human health, where at first glance there 
appears to be no association with one sex rather than the 
other. Yet garden magic is invariably a man's concern 
and women never perform the important public rites, 
most scrupulously observed and highly valued by the 
natives, which are carried out by the village magician over 
the gardens of the whole community.^ Even those phases 
of gardening, such as weeding, which are undertaken ex- 
clusively by women, have to be inaugurated by the male 
garden magician in an official ceremony. Wind, sunshine, 
and rain are also controlled entirely by male hands and 

In certain mixed activities a man or a woman can equally 
well perform the required magic, and some minor rites 
of private garden magic, used by each individual for his 
or her own benefit, can be carried out indiscriminately by 
men or women. There is the magic of love and beauty, 
of which the spells are recited by anyone who suffers from 
unrequited love or needs to enhance his or her personal 
charm. Again, on certain occasions, such, for instance, 
as the big tribal festivals, the spells of beauty are publicly 
recited by women over men (ch. xi, sqc. 3), and, at other 
times, men apply a form of beauty magic to their own 
persons and ornaments.^ 

The most definite allocation of magical powers to one 

1 In the Amphlett Islands, on the other hand, garden magic is made 
mainly if not exclusively by women. Among the natives of Dobu Island 
and on the north-eastern shores of Dawson Straits in the d'Entrecasteaux 
Archipelago, women also play a preponderating role in garden magic. 

2 Cf. Argonauts of the Western Pacific, ch. xiii, sec. i. 



or other of the sexes is to be found in the dark and 
dreaded forces of sorcery: those forces which most pro-;- 
foundly affect human hope and happiness. The magic 
of illness and health, which can poison life or restore its 
natural sweetness, and which holds death as it were for 
its last card, can be made by men and women alike j but 
its character changes entirely with the sex of the prac- 
titioner. Man and woman have each their own sorcery, 
carried on by means of different rites and formulae, acting 
in a different manner on the victim's body and surrounded 
by an altogether different atmosphere of belief. Male 
sorcery is much more concrete, and its methods can be 
stated clearly, almost as a rational system. The sorcerer's 
supernatural equipment is restricted to his power of van- 
ishing at will, of emitting a shining glow from his person, 
and of having accomplices among the nocturnal birds. 
Extremely poor means of supernatural action if we com- 
pare them with the achievements of a witch! 

A witch — and be it remembered that she is always a real 
woman and not a spiritual or non-human being — ^goes out 
on her nightly errand in the form of an invisible double j 
she can fly through the air and appears as a falling star j 
she. assumes at will the shape of a fire-fly, of a night bird 
or of a flying-fox j she can hear and smell at enormous 
distances 5 she is endowed with sarcophagous propensities, 
and feeds on corpses. 

The disease which witches cause is almost incurable and 
extremely rapid in its action, killing, as a rule, immedi- 
ately. It is inflicted by the removal of the victim's inside, 
which the woman presently consumes. The wizard, on 



the other hand, never partakes of his victim's flesh, his 
power is much less effective, he must proceed slowly, and 
the best he can hope for is to inflict a lingering disease, 
which may, with good luck, kill after months or years of 
steady labour. Even then another sorcerer can be hired 
to counteract his work and restore the patient. But there 
is little chance of combating a witch, even if the help of 
another witch be sought immediately. 

A witch, when she is not old, is no less desirable sex- 
ually than other women. Indeed, she is surrounded by 
a halo of glory due to her personal power, and usually 
she has also that strong individuality which seems to ac- 
company the reputation for witchcraft. The attraction 
which a marriageable young witch has for the other sex 
need not be altogether disinterested, for witchcraft is 
occasionally a source of income and of personal influence 
in which it is pleasant to have a share. But the profes- 
sion of witch, unlike that of sorcerer, is not exercised 
openly 3 a witch may receive payment for healing, but 
she never undertakes to kill for a fee. In this again she 
differs from the sorcerer who derives the greater part of 
his income from black rather than from curative practice. 
Indeed, even when a woman is generally known to be a 
witch, she is never supposed to admit it explicitly, even 
to her husband. 

Witchcraft is inherited from mother to daughter, and 
an early initiation has to take place. In later life, the 
art of female necromancy is sometimes further enhanced 
by less reputable means. Some women are said to have 
sexual relations with non-human, highly malignant beings 



called tauva^u who bring epidemics and various evils 
upon the people (see ch. xii, sec. 4). By them they are 
further instructed in the art of harming, and such women 
are greatly feared. Several of my personal acquaintance 
were definitely pointed out as having a leman from the 
sphere of tauva*Uy notably the wife of the headman o£ 
Obweria, a very intelligent and enterprising character, 
who is seen, as the main performer, on plates 77 and 78. 

From the point of view of the investigating sociologist, 
the most important difference between male and female 
sorcery lies in the fact that the wizard actually carries on 
his trade, while the witch's activity exists only in folk- 
lore and in the imagination of the native. That is to say, 
a sorcerer actually knows the magic of his trade j when 
called upon he will utter it over the proper substances j 
will go out at night to waylay his victim or visit him in 
his hut J and in certain cases, I suspect, may even admin- 
ister poison. The witch, on the other hand, however 
much she may be believed to play the part of a yoyoyUy 
does not — needless to say — ^really fly or abstract the in- 
sides of people, and she knows no spells or rites, since 
this type of female magic lives merely in legend and 

There are a number of minor ailments, among them 
toothache, certain tumours, swelling of the testicles and 
genital discharge (gonorrhoea?), which woman can inflict 
on man by means of magic. Toothache is exclusively a 
female specialty, and one woman will be called in to 
cure it when some other has caused it. A witch can pro- 
duce it through her magical power over a small beetle 



called kifyiy which is very similar to the one which makes 
holes in taro. The resemblance between dental caries and 
the cavities bored by the beetle in taro is a sufficient proof 
that similar effects have been produced by similar causes. 
But some of my informants had actually seen the small 
black scarab fall out of a man's mouth while a woman was 
performing the curative formula. 

There are, as we have seen, forms of hereditary magic 
which can be -carried on only by male members of a sub- 
clan, or, exceptionally, by the son of such a member. 
(And in the latter case he has to relinquish it at his fa- 
ther's death.) Now, if the males of a certain generation 
were to die out, a woman could learn such magic, though 
she would not be allowed to practise it, and when she 
bore a male heir to her sub-clan, would teach him the 
formula for his future use. Thus woman can tide over 
the gap of one generation, carrying in her memory a sys- 
tem of garden magic, or weather and wind charms, or 
spells for fishing, hunting, canoe building, and oversea 
trade. She can even preserve a system of war magic, 
but she must never learn the formula of masculine sor- 
cery, which is strictly taboo to the female sex. Nor is 
there any necessity for her to do so, since this magic is 
never strictly hereditary within a sub-clan. 

Thus we see that the strong tribal position of women 
is also buttressed by their right to exercise magic — that 
toughest and least destructible substance of belief. 

And now, in order to summarize briefly the results of 
this chapter and the previous one, let us imagine that we 



are taking a bird's-eye view of a native village, and are 
trying to form a compound moving picture of the life of 
the community. Casting our glance over the central 
place, the street, and the surrounding grove and garden 
land, we see them peopled by men and women mixing 
freely and on terms of equality. Sometimes they go to- 
gether to work in the garden, or to collect food-stuffs in 
the jungle or on the sea-shore. Or else they separate, 
each sex forming a group of workers engaged in some 
special activity, and performing it efficiently and with 
interest. Men predominate on the central place, discuss- 
ing, perhaps, in a communal gathering the prospects of 
the garden, or preparing for an oversea expedition or 
for some ceremony. The street is peopled by women, 
busying themselves with household work, and there the 
men will presently join them, helping them to amuse 
the children or in some domestic task. We can hear the 
women scold their husbands, usually in a very good- 
natured manner. 

Let us suppose our attention to be drawn to some sin- 
gular event, to a death, a tribal squabble, a division of 
inherited wealth, or to some ceremony. We watch it 
with understanding eyes, and see, side by side, the work- 
ings of tribal law and custom, and the play of personal 
passion and interest. We see the influence of matrilineal 
principles, the working of paternal rule, usages of tribal 
authority, and the results of totemic division in the clans 
and sub-clans. In all this there is a balance between the 
influence of male and female, the man wields the power 
while the woman determines its distribution. 



Or perhaps the central place is thronged by a mixed 
gathering, gay with festive dress and decorations. Women 
move with a soft swaying motion in their holiday attire, 
coquettishly aware of the lines of their bodies and the 
elegant swish-swish of their full, crimson, purple, and 
golden skirts. The men are more soberly dressed, and 
affect a stiff, immovable dignity. They move very little, 
unless they are among the performers in the dance or 
other festive function. These last are covered gorgeously 
with ornaments, and are instinct with life and motion. 
The performance starts j it is carried on sometimes by 
men only, and sometimes by women. As it progresses, 
later in the afternoon or in the evening, the young men 
and women begin to show some interest in each other: 
here and there snatches of conversation, bursts of laugh- 
ter and giggling can be heard. Nothing in the slightest 
degree obscene, indecent, or sexually improper can be 
observed in their behaviour, though their vocabulary is 
by no means prim. But, since we understand this com- 
munity. We know that assignations are being made and 
intrigues inaugurated. Thus we are led up to the closer 
study of the erotic phase of native life 5 and we now 
proceed to a systematic description of this subject. 





The Trobrianders are very free and easy in their sexual 
relations. To a superficial observer it might indeed ap- 
pear that they are entirely untrammelled in these. This, 
however, is not the case 3 for their liberty has certain 
very well-defined limits. The best way of showing this 
will be to give a consecutive account of the various stages 
through which a man and a woman pass from childhood 
to maturity — a sort of sexual life-history of a representa- 
tive couple. 

We shall have first to consider their earliest years, for 
these natives begin their acquaintance with sex at a very 
tender age. The unregulated and, as it were, capricious 
intercourse of these early years becomes systematized in 
adolescence into more or less stable intrigues, which later 
on develop into permanent liaisons. Connected with these 
latter stages of sexual life, there exists in the Trobriand 
Islands an extremely interesting institution, the bachelors' 
and unmarried girls' house, called by the natives buku- 
matula; it is of considerable importance, as it is one of 
those arrangements sanctioned by custom which might 
appear on the surface to be a form of "group-marriage." 





Children in the Trobriand Islands enjoy considerable 
freedom and independence. They soon become emanci- 
pated from a parental tutelage which has never been 
very strict. Some of them obey their parents willingly, 
but this is entirely a matter of the personal character of 
both parties: there is no idea of a regular discipline, no 
system of domestic coercion. Often as I sat among them,, 
observing some family incident or listening to a quarrel 
between parent and child, I would hear a youngster told 
to do this or that, and generally the thing, whatever it 
was, would be asked as a favour, though sometimes the 
request might be backed up by a threat of violence. The 
parents would either coax or scold or ask as from one 
equal to another. A simple command, implying the ex- 
pectation of natural obedience, is never heard from 
parent to child in the Trobriands. 

People will sometimes grow angry with their children 
and beat them in an outburst of ragej but I have quite 
as often seen a child rush furiously at his parent and 
strike him. This attack might be received with a good- 
natured smile, or the blow might be angrily returned 5 
but the idea of definite retribution, or of coercive pun- 
ishment, is not only foreign, but distinctly repugnant tO' 
the native. Several times, when I suggested, after some 
flagrant infantile misdeed, that it would mend matters 
for the future if the child were beaten or otherwise pun- 



ished in cold blood, the idea appeared unnatural and im- 
moral to my friends, and was rejected with some re- 

Such freedom gives scope for the formation of the 
children's own little community, an independent group, 
into which they drop naturally from the age of four or 
five and continue till puberty. As the mood prompts 
them, they remain with their parents during the day, or 
else join their playmates for a time in their small republic 
(see pis. 15, 16, and 17). And this community within a 
community acts very much as its own members determine, 
standing often in a sort of collective opposition to its 
elders. If the children make up their minds to do a cer- 
tain thing, to go for a day's expedition, for instance, the 
grown-ups and even the chief himself, as I often ob- 
served, will not be able to stop them. In my ethno- 
graphic work I was able and was indeed forced to collect 
my information about children and their concerns directly 
from them. Their spiritual ownership in games and 
childish activities was acknowledged, and they were also 
quite capable of instructing me and explaining the in- 
tricacies of their play or enterprise (see pi. 15). 

Small children begin also to understand and to defer 
to tribal tradition and custom 5 to those restrictions which 
have the character of a taboo or of a definite command 
of tribal law, or usage or propriety.^ 

1 The processes by which respect for tribal taboo and tradition is in- 
stilled in the child are described throughout this book, especially in ch. 
xiii. Custom must not be personified nor is its authority absolute or 
autonomous, but it is derived from specific social and psychological mech- 
anisms. Cf. my Crime and Custom, 1926. 



The child's freedom and independence extend also to 
sexual matters. To begin with, children hear of and 
witness much in the sexual life of their elders. Within 
the house, where the parents have no possibility of find- 
ing privacy, a child has opportunities of acquiring prac- 
tical information concerning the sexual act. I was told 
that no special precautions are taken to prevent children 
from witnessing their parents' sexual enjoyment. The 
child would merely be scolded and told to cover its head 
with a mat. I sometimes heard a little boy or girl praised 
in these terms: "Good child, he never tells what happens 
between his parents." Young children are allowed to 
listen to baldly sexual talk, and they understand per- 
fectly well what is being discussed. They are also 
themselves tolerably expert in swearing and the use of 
obscene language. Because of their early mental develop- 
ment some quite tiny children are able to make smutty 
jokes, and these their elders will greet with laughter. 

Small girls follow their fathers on fishing expeditions, 
during which the men remove their pubic leaf. Naked- 
ness under these conditions is regarded as natural, since 
it is necessary. There is no lubricity or ribaldry asso- 
ciated with it. Once, when I was engaged in the discus- 
sion of an obscene subject, a little girl, the daughter of 
one of my informants, joined our group. I asked the 
father to tell her to go away. "Oh, no," he answered, 
"she is a good girl, she never repeats to her mother any- 
thing that is said among men. When we take her fish- 
ing with us we need not be ashamed. Another girl would 
describe the details of our nakedness to her companions 



or her mothers/ Then these will chaflF us and repeat 
what they have heard about us. This little girl never 
"says a word." The other men present enthusiastically 
assented, and developed the theme of the girl's discre- 
tion. But a boy is much less in contact with his mother 
in such matters, for here, between maternal relations, 
that is, for the natives, between real kindred, the taboo 
of incest begins to act at an early age, and the boy is re- 
moved from any intimate contact of this sort with his 
mother and above all with his sisters. 

There are plenty of opportunities for both boys and 
girls to receive instruction in erotic matters from their 
companions. The children initiate each other into the 
mysteries of sexual life in a directly practical manner at 
a very early age. A premature amorous existence begins 
among them long before they are able really to carry 
out the act of sex. They indulge in plays and pastimes 
in which they satisfy their curiosity concerning the ap- 
pearance and function of the organs of generation, and 
incidentally receive, it would seem, a certain amount of 
positive pleasure. Genital manipulation and such minor 
perversions as oral stimulation of the organs are typical 
forms of this amusement. Small boys and girls are said 
to be frequently initiated by their somewhat older com- 
panions, who allow them to witness their own amorous 
dalliance. As they are untrammelled by the authority of 
their elders' and unrestrained by any moral code, except 
that of specific tribal taboo, there is nothing but their de- 

1 That Is, "classificatory mothers," mother, maternal aunts, etc. Cf. ch. 
ixiii, sees. 5 and 6, 



gree of curiosity, of ripeness, and of "temperament" or 
sensuality, to determine how much or how little they 
shall indulge in sexual pastimes. 

The attitude of the grown-ups and even of the parents 
towards such infantile indulgence is either that of com- 
plete indijfference or that of complacency — ^they find it 
natural, and do not see why they should scold or interfere. 
Usually they show a kind of tolerant and amused inter- 
est, and discuss the love affairs of their children with 
easy jocularity. I often heard some such benevolent gos- 
sip as this: "So-and-so (a little girl) has already had 
intercourse with So-and-so (a little boy)." And if such 
were the case, it would be added that it was her- first 
experience. An exchange of lovers, or some small love 
drama in the little world would be half-seriously, half- 
jokingly discussed. The infantile sexual act, or its sub- 
stitute, is regarded as an innocent amusement. "It is 
their play to kayta (to have intercourse). They give 
each other a coconut, a small piece of betel-nut, a few 
beads or some fruits from the bush, and then they go 
and hide, and kayta,^^ But it is not considered proper for 
the children to carry on their affairs in the house. It has 
always to be done in the bush. 

The age at which a girl begins to amuse herself in this 
manner is said to coincide with her putting on the small 
fibre skirt, between, that is, the ages of four and five. 
But this obviously can refer only to incomplete practices 
and not to the real act. Some of my informants insisted 
that such small female children actually have intercourse 
with penetration. Remembering, however, the Trobri- 



ander's very strong tendency to exaggerate in the direc- 
tion of the grotesque, a tendency not altogether devoid 
of a certain malicious Rabelaisian humour, I am inclined 
to discount those statements of my authorities. If we 
place the beginning of real sexual life at the age of six 
to eight in the case of girls, and ten to twelve in the case 
of boys, we shall probably not be erring very greatly in 
either direction. And from these times sexuality will 
gradually assume a greater and greater importance as life 
goes on, until it abates in the course of nature. 

Sexual, or at least sensuous, pleasure constitutes if not 
the basis of, at least an element in, many of the children's 
pastimes. Some of them do not, of course, provide any 
sexual excitement at all, as for instance those in imitation 
of the grown-up economic and ceremonial activities (see 
pi. 17), or games of skill or childish athletics 5 but all 
sorts of round games, which are played by the children 
of both sexes on the central place of the village, have a 
more or less strongly marked flavour of sex, though the 
outlets they furnish are indirect and only accessible to the 
elder youths and maidens, who also join in them. In- 
deed, we shall have to return later (chs. ix and xi) to a 
consideration of sex in certain games, songs, and stones, 
for as the sexual association becomes more subtle and 
indirect it appeals more and more to older people alone 
and has, therefore, to be examined in the contexts of later 

There are, however, some specific games in which the 
older children never participate, and into which sex di- 
rectly enters. The little ones sometimes play, for in- 



stance, at house-building, and at family life. A small 
hut of sticks and boughs is constructed in a secluded part 
of the jungle, and a couple or more repair thither and 
play at husband and wife, prepare food and carry out or 
imitate as best they can the act of sex. Or else a band 
of them, in imitation of the amorous expeditions of their 
elders, carry food to some favourite spot on the sea-shore 
or in the coral ridge, cook and eat vegetables there, and 
"when they are full of food, the boys sometimes fight 
with each other, or sometimes kayta (copulate) with the 
girls." When the fruit ripens on certain wild trees in the 
jungle they go in parties to pick it, to exchange presents, 
make kula (ceremonial exchange) of the fruit, and en- 
gage in erotic pastimes.^ 

Thus it will be seen that they have a tendency to pal- 
liate the crudity of their sexual interest and indulgence 
by associating it with something more poetic. Indeed, the 
Trobriand children show a great sense of the singular and 
romantic in their games. For instance, if a part of the 
jungle or village has been flooded by rain, they go and 
sail their small canoes on this new watery or if a very 
strong sea has thrown up some interesting flotsam, they 
proceed to the beach and inaugurate some imaginative 
game around it. The little boys, too, search for unusual 
animals, insects, or flowers, and give them to the little 
girls, thus lending a redeeming aesthetic touch to their 
premature eroticisms. 

In spite of the importance of the sexual motive in the 

1 For a description of the real kula, cf. Argonauts of the Western 



life of the youngest generation, it must be kept in mind 
that the separation of the sexes, in many matters, obtains 
also among children. Small girls can very often be seen 
playing or wandering in independent parties by them- 
selves. Little boys in certain moods — and these seem 
their more usual ones — scorn the society of the female 
and amuse themselves alone (pi. 17). Thus the small 
republic falls into two distinct groups which are perhaps 
to be seen more often apart than together j and, though 
they frequently unite in play, this need by no means be 
necessarily sensuous. 

It is important to note that there is no interference by 
older persons in the sexual life of children. On rare 
occasions some old man or woman is suspected of taking 
a strong sexual interest in the children, and even of hav- 
ing intercourse with some of them. But I never found 
such suspicions supported even by a general consensus of 
opinion, and it was always considered both improper and 
silly for an older man or woman to have sexual dealings 
with a child. There is certainly no trace of any custom 
of ceremonial defloration by old men, or even by men 
belonging to an older age class. 



I have just used the expression "age class," but I did 
so in a broad sense only: for there are no sharply distin- 
guished age grades or classes among the Trobriand na- 
tives. The following table of age designations only 



roughly indicates the stages of their life 3 for these stages 
in practice merge into one another. 

Designations of Age 

1. JVaywaya (foetus; infant till the age of"^ 
crawling, both male and female) 

2. Piuapiua'iva (infant, till the stage of walk- 
ing, male or female) 

3. Giuadi (child, till puberty, male or female) 

4. Monag'wadi (male 4. Inagivadi (female 
child) child) 

5. To'ulaiile (youth 
from puberty till 

6. Tobuhonva'u (ma- 
ture man) 

6a. Tovavaygile (mar- 
ried man) 

7. Tomivaya (old 

7fl. Toboma (old 
honoured man) 

5. Nakapugula or 
N akubukivabuya 
(girl from puberty I 
till marriage) 

6. Nabuboiva'u (ripej 

6a. Navavaygile 
(married woman) 

7. Numivaya (old 

I. Stage : Givadi — 
Word used as a 
generic designation 
for all these stages 
1-4, meaning child, 
male or female, at 
any time between 
birth and maturity 

II. Stage: Generic 
designations — Ta'u 
(man), Vivila 

III. Stage: Old age 

The terms used in this table will be found to overlap 
in some instances. Thus a very small infant may be re- 
ferred to as waywaya or fwafwawa indiscriminately, but 
only the former term as a rule would be used in speaking 
of a foetus or referring to the pre-incarnated children 
from Tuma.^ Again, you might call a few months old 
child either gwadi or fwafwaway but the latter term 
would be but seldom used except for a very small baby. 
The term gwadi moreover can be used generically, as 
"child" in English, to denote anything from a foetus to 
a young boy or girl. Thus, it will be seen that two terms 
may encroach on each other's field of meaning, but only 

1 Cf . ch. vii, sec. a. 



if they be consecutive. The terms with sex prefixes (4) 
are normally used only of elder children who may be dis- 
tinguished by their dress. 

There are, besides these more specific subdivisions, the 
three main distinctions of age, between the ripe man and 
woman in the full vigour of life and the two stages — 
those of childhood and of old age^which limit man- 
hood and womanhood on either side. The second main 
stage is divided into two parts, mainly by the fact of mar- 
riage. Thus, the words under (5) primarily designate 
unmarried people and to that extent are opposed to (60), 
but they also imply youth fulness or unripeness, and in 
that respect are opposed to (6). 

The male term for old age, tomwuya (7) can also de- 
note rank or importance. I myself was often so ad- 
dressed, but I was not flattered, and much preferred to 
be called tohoma (literally "the tabooed man"), a name 
given to old men of rank, but stressing the latter attribute 
rather than the former. Curiously enough, the compli- 
ment or distinction implied in the word tomwaya be- 
comes much weaker, and almost disappears in its feminine 
equivalent. Numwaya conveys that tinge of scorn or 
ridicule inseparable from "old woman" in so many lan- 



When a boy reaches the age of from twelve to four- 
teen years, and attains that physical vigour which comes 
with sexual maturity, and when, above all, his increased 



strength and mental ripeness allow him to take part, 
though still in a somewhat limited and fitful manner, in 
some of the economic activities of his elders, he ceases to 
be regarded as a child (gwadi)^ and assumes the position 
of adolescent {ulatile or to^ulatile). At the same time 
he receives a different status, involving some duties and 
many privileges, a stricter observance of taboos, and a 
greater participation in tribal affairs. He has already 
donned the pubic leaf for some time 5 now he becomes 
more careful in his, wearing of it, and more interested in 
its appearance. The girl emerges from childhood into 
adolescence through the obvious bodily changes: "her 
breasts are round and fullj her bodily hair begins to 
growj her menses flow and ebb with every moon," as the 
natives put it. She also has no new change in her attire 
to make, for she has much earlier assumed her fibre skirt, 
but now her interest in it from the two points of view of 
elegance and decorum is greatly increased. 

At this stage a partial break-up of the family takes 
place. Brothers and sisters must be segregated in obedi- 
ence to that stringent taboo which plays such an important 
part in tribal life.^ The elder children, especially the 
males, have to leave the house, so as not to hamper by 
their embarrassing presence the sexual life of their par- 
ents. This partial disintegration of the family group is 
effected by the boy moving to a house tenanted by bach- 
elors or by elderly widowed male relatives or friends. 
Such a house is called hukumatula^ and in the next section 
we shall become acquainted with the details of its arrange- 

1 Cf. ch. xiii, 6, and ch. xiv. 



ment. The girl sometimes goes to the house of an elderly 
widowed maternal aunt or other relative. 

As the boy or girl enters upon adolescence the nature 
of his or her sexual activity becomes more serious. It 
ceases to be mere child's play and assumes a prominent 
place among life's interests. What was before an unstable 
relation culminating in an exchange of erotic manipula- 
tion or an immature sexual act becomes now an absorbing 
passion, and a matter for serious endeavour. An adoles- 
cent gets definitely attached to a given person, wishes to 
possess her, works purposefully towards this goal, plans 
to reach the fulfilment of his desires by magical and other 
means, and finally rejoices in achievement. I have seen 
young people of this age grow positively miserable 
through ill-success in love. This stage, in fact, differs 
from the one before in that personal preference has now 
come into play and with it a tendency towards a greater 
permanence in intrigue. The boy develops a desire to 
retain the fidelity and exclusive affection of the loved 
one, at least for a time. But this tendency is not asso- 
ciated so far with any idea of settling down to one exclu- 
sive relationship, nor do adolescents yet begin to think of 
marriage. A boy or girl wishes to pass through many 
more experiences j he or she still enjoys the prospect of 
complete freedom and has no desire to accept obligations. 
Though pleased to imagine that his partner is faithful, 
the youthful lover does not feel obliged to reciprocate 
this fidelity. 

We have seen in the previous section that a group of 
children forming a sort of small republic within the com- 



munity is conspicuous in every village. Adolescence fur- 
nishes the community with another small group, of 
youths and girls. At this stage, however, though the 
boys and girls are much more bound up in each other as 
regards amorous interests, they but rarely mix in public 
or in the daytime. The group is really broken up into 
two, according to sex (pis. i8 and 193 see also pis. 59 
and 61). To this division there correspond two words, 
to^ulatile and nakubukwabuyay there being no one expres- 
sion — such as there is to describe the younger age group, 
gugwadiy children — to define the adolescent youth of 
both sexes. 

The natives take an evident pride in this, "the flower 
of the village," as it might be called. They frequently 
mention that "all the to^ulatile and nakubukwahuya 
(youths and girls) of the village were there." In 
speaking of some competitive game, or dance or sport, 
they compare the looks or performance of their own 
youths with those of some other village, and always to 
the advantage of their own. This group leads a happy, 
free, arcadian existence, devoted to amusement and the 
pursuit of pleasure. 

Its members are so far not claimed by any serious du- 
ties, yet their greater physical strength and ripeness give 
them more independence and a wider scope of action than 
they had as children. The adolescent boys participate, 
but mainly as free-lances, in garden work (see pi. 19), 
in the fishing and hunting and in oversea expeditions j 
they get all the excitement and pleasure, as well as some 
of the prestige, yet remain free from a great deal of the 



drudgery and many of the restrictions which trammel and 
weigh on their elders. Many of the taboos are not yet 
quite binding on them, the burden of magic has not yet 
fallen on their shoulders. If they grow tired of work, 
they simply stop and rest. The self-discipline of ambition 
and subservience to traditional ideals, which moves all the 
elder individuals and leaves them relatively little per- 
sonal freedom, has not yet quite drawn these boys into 
the wheels of the social machine. Girls, too, obtain a 
certain amount of the enjoyment and excitement denied 
to children by joining in some of the activities of their 
elders, while still escaping the worst of the drudgery. 

Young people of this age, besides conducting their 
love affairs more seriously and intensely, widen and give 
u greater variety to the setting of their amours. Both 
sexes arrange picnics and excursions and thus their in- 
dulgence in intercourse becomes associated with an enjoy- 
ment of novel experiences and fine scenery. They also 
form sexual connections outside the village community 
to which they belong. Whenever there occurs in some 
other locality one of the ceremonial occasions on which 
custom permits of licence, thither they repair, usually in 
bands either of boys or of girls, since on such occasions 
opportunity of indulgence offers for one sex alone (see 
ch. ix, esp. sees. 6 and 7). 

It is necessary to add that the places used for love- 
making differ at this stage from those of the previous 
one. The small children carry on their sexual practices 
surreptitiously in bush or grove as a part of their games, 
using all sorts of makeshift arrangements to attain pri- 



vacy, but the ulatile (adolescent) has either a couch d£ 
his own in a bachelors' house, or the use of a hut belong- 
ing to one of his unmarried relatives. In a certain type 
of yam-house, too, there is an empty closed-in space in 
which boys sometimes arrange little "cosy-corners," af- 
fording room for two. In these, they make a bed of dry 
leaves and mats, and thus obtain a comfortable gargon- 
nierey where they can meet and spend a happy hour or 
two with their loves. Such arrangements are, of course, 
necessary now that amorous intercourse has become a pas- 
sion instead of a game. 

But a couple will not yet regularly cohabit in a bach- 
elors' house {hukumatuld) y living together and sharing 
the same bed night after night. Both girl and boy prefer 
to adopt more furtive and less conventionally binding 
methods, to avoid lapsing into a permanent relationship 
which might put unnecessary restraint upon their liberty 
by becoming generally known. That is why they usually 
prefer a small nest in the sokwayfa (covered yam-house), 
or the temporary hospitality of a bachelors' house. 

We have seen that the youthful attachments between 
boys and girls at this stage have ripened out of childish 
games and intimacies. All these young people have 
grown up in close propinquity and with full knowledge 
of each other. Such early acquaintances take fire, as it 
were, under the influence of certain entertainments, where 
the intoxicating influence of music and moonlight, and 
the changed mood and attire of all the participants, trans- 
figure the boy and girl in each other's eyes. Intimate 
observation of the natives and their personal confidences 

66 , 


have convinced me that extraneous stimuli of this kind 
play a great part in the love affairs of the Trobrianders. 
Such opportunities of mutual transformation and escape 
from the monotony of everyday life are afforded not 
only by the many fixed seasons of festivity and permitted 
licence, but also by that monthly increase in the people's 
pleasure-seeking mood which leads to many special pas- 
times at the full of the moon/ 

Thus adolescence marks the transition between infan- 
tile and playful sexualities and those serious permanent 
relations which precede marriage. During this interme- 
diate period love becomes passionate and yet remains free. 

As time goes on, and the boys and girls grow older, 
their intrigues last longer, and their mutual ties tend to 
become stronger and more permanent. A personal pref- 
erence as a rule develops and begins definitely to over- 
shadow all other love affairs. It may be based on true 
sexual passion or else on an affinity of characters. Prac- 
tical considerations become involved in it, and, sooner or 
later, the man thinks of stabilizing one of his liaisons by 
marriage. In the ordinary course of events, every mar- 
riage is preceded by a more or less protracted period of 
sexual life in common. This is generally known and 
spoken of, and is regarded as a public intimation of the 
matrimonial projects of the pair. It serves also as a test 
of the strength of their attachment and extent of their 
mutual compatibility. This trial period also gives time 
for the prospective bridegroom and for the woman's 
family to prepare economically for the event. 

1 Cf. ch. ix. 



Two people living together as permanent lovers are 
described respectively as "his woman" {la vivila) and 
"her man" {la ta^u). Or else a term, also used to de- 
scribe the friendship between two men, is applied to this 
relationship {lubay-j with pronominal suffixes). In order 
to distinguish between a passing liaison and one which is 
considered preliminary to marriage, they would say of 
the female concerned in the latter: "/^ vivila mokita; 
imisiya yambwata yambwata^^ — "his woman truly 5 he 
sleeps with her always always." In this locution the 
sexual relationship between the two is denoted by the 
verb "to sleep with" {imisiya)y the durative and iterative 
form of masisiy to sleep. The use of this verb also em- 
phasizes the lawfulness of the relation, for it is used in 
talking of sexual intercourse between husband and wife, 
or of such relations as the speaker wishes to discuss seri- 
ously and respectfully. An approximate equivalent in 
English would be the verb "cohabit." The natives have 
two other words in distinction to this. The verb kaylasiy 
which implies an illicit element in the act, is used when 
speaking of adultery or other forms of non-lawful inter- 
course. Here the English word "fornicate" would come 
nearest to rendering the native meaning. When the na- 
tives wish to indicate the crude, physiological fact, they 
use the word kayta^ translatable, though pedantically, by 
the verb "copulate with." 

The pre-matrimonial, lasting intrigue is based upon 
and maintained by personal elements only. There is no 
legal obligation on either party. They may enter into 
and dissolve it as they like. In fact, this relationship dif- 



fers from other liaisons only in its duration and stability. 
Towards the end, when marriage actually approaches, the 
element of personal responsibility and obligation becomes 
stronger. The two now regularly cohabit in the same 
house, and a considerable degree of exclusiveness in sexual 
matters is observed by them. But they have not yet 
given up their personal freedom j on the several occasions 
of wider licence affianced couples are invariably separated 
and each partner is "unfaithful" with his or her tempo- 
rary choice. Even within the village, in the normal 
course, the girl who is definitely going to marry a par- 
ticular boy will bestow favours on other men, though a 
certain measure of decorum must be observed in this 5 if 
she sleeps out too often, there will be possibly a dissolu- 
tion of the tie and certainly friction and disagreement. 
Neither boy nor girl may go openly and flagrantly with 
other partners on an amorous expedition. Quite apart 
from nocturnal cohabitation, the two are supposed to be 
seen in each other's company and to make a display of 
their relationship in public. Any deviation from the 
exclusive liaison must be decent, that is to say, clandes- 
tine. The relation of free engagement is the natural 
outcome of a series of trial liaisons, and the appropriate 
preliminary test of marriage. 

THE bachelors' HOUSE 

The most important feature of this mode of steering 
towards marriage, through gradually lengthening and 



strengthening intimacies, is an institution which might be 
called "the limited bachelors' house," and which, indeed, 
suggests at first sight the presence of a "group concu- 
binage." It is clear that in order to enable pairs of lovers 
permanently to cohabit, some building is needed which 
will afford them seclusion. We have seen the makeshift 
arrangements of children and the more comfortable, but 
not yet permanent love-nests of adolescent boys and girls, 
and it is obvious that the lasting liaisons of youth and 
adult girls require some special institution, more defi- 
nitely established, more physically comfortable, and at 
the same time having the approval of custom. 

To meet this need, tribal custom and etiquette offer 
accommodation and privacy in the form of the hukuma- 
tulay the bachelors' and unmarried girls' house of which 
mention has already been made (see pis. 20 and 21). In 
this a limited number of couples, some two, three, or 
four, live for longer or shorter periods together in a 
temporary community. It also and incidentally offers 
shelter for younger couples if they want amorous pri- 
vacy for an hour or two. 

We must now give some more detailed attention to 
this institution, for it is extremely important and highly 
significant from many points of view. We must consider 
the position of the houses in the village, their internal 
arrangements and the manner in which life within the 
hukufnatula shapes itself. 

In the description of the typical village in the Tro- 
briands (ch. i, sec. 2), attention was drawn to its schematic 
division into several parts. This division expresses cer- 



tain sociological rules and regularities. As we have seen, 
there is a vague association between the central place and 
the male life of the community 5 between the street and 
feminine activities. Again, all the houses of the inner 
row, which consists principally of storehouses (pis. 10 
and 82), are subject to certain taboos, especially to the 
taboo of cooking, which is believed to be inimical to the 
stored yam. The outer ring, on the other hand, consists 
of household dwellings, and there cooking is allowed 
(pis. 4 and 5). With this distinction is associated the 
fact that all the establishments of married people have 
to stand in the outer ring, whereas a bachelor's house may 
be allowed among the storehouses in the middle. The 
inner row thus consists of yam-houses {hwayma)^ per- 
sonal huts of a chief and his kinsmen {Usiga) (pi. i), and 
bachelors' houses {hukumatuld) , The outer ring is made 
up of matrimonial homes {bulaviyaka)^ closed yam-houses 
{sokwaypa^j and widows' or widowers' houses {hwala 
nakaka^u). The main distinction between the two rings 
is the taboo on cooking. A young chief's I'lsiga (personal 
hut) is as a rule used also to accommodate other youths 
and thus becomes a hukumatula with all that this implies 
(pi. 20). 

At present there are five bachelors' establishments in 
Omarakana, and four in the adjoining village of Kasana'i. 
Their number has greatly diminished owing to missionary 
influence. Indeed, for fear of being singled out, admon- 
ished and preached at, the owners of some hukumatula 
now erect them in the outer ring, where they are less 
conspicuous. Some ten years ago my informants could 



count as many as fifteen bachelors' homes in both villages, 
and my oldest acquaintances remember the time when 
there were some thirty. This dwindling in number is 
due, of course, partly to the enormous decrease of popu- 
lation, and only partly to the fact that nowadays some 
bachelors live with their parents, some in widowers' 
houses, and some in the missionary compounds. But 
whatever the reason, it is needless to say that this state 
of affairs does not enhance true sex morality. 

The internal arrangements of a bukumatula are simple. 
The furniture consists almost exclusively of bunks with 
mat coverings. Since the inmates lead their life in asso- 
ciation with other households in the day-time, and keep 
all their working implements in other houses, the inside 
of a typical bukiunatula is strikingly bare. It lacks the 
feminine touch, the impression of being really inhabited. 

In such an interior the older boys and their temporary 
mistresses live together. Each male owns his own bunk 
and regularly uses it. When a couple dissolve their 
liaison, it is the girl who moves, as a rule, to find another 
sleeping-place with another sweetheart. The bukumatula 
is, usually, owned by the group of boys who inhabit it, 
one of them, the eldest, being its titular owner. I was 
told that sometimes a man would build a house as a 
bukumatula for his daughter, and that in olden days 
there used to be unmarried people's houses owned and 
tenanted by girls. I never met, however, any actual 
instance of such an arrangement. 

At first sight, as I have said, the institution of the 
bukumatula might appear as a sort of "Group Marriage" 



or at least "Group Concubinage," but analysis shows it 
to be nothing of the kind. Such wholesale terms are 
always misleading, if we allow them to carry an extrane- 
ous implication. To call this institution "Group Concu- 
binage" would lead to misunderstanding 5 for it must be 
remembered that we have to deal with a number of cou- 
ples who sleep in a common house, each in an exclusive 
liaison, and not with a group of people all living promis- 
cuously together j there is never an exchange of partners, 
nor any poaching nor "complaisance." In fact, a special 
code of honour is observed within the bukumatula^ which 
makes an inmate much more careful to respect sexual 
rights within the house than outside it. The word kaylasiy 
indicating sexual trespass, would be used of one who of- 
fended against this code 3 and I was told that "a man 
should not do it, because it is very bad, like adultery with 
a friend's wife." 

Within the hukumatula a strict decorum obtains. The 
inmates never indulge in orgiastic pastimes, and it is con- 
sidered bad form to watch another couple during their 
love-making. I was told by my young friends that the 
rule is either to wait till all the others are asleep, or else 
for all the pairs of a house to undertake to pay no atten- 
tion to the rest. I could find no trace of any "voyeur" 
interest taken by the average boy, nor any tendency to 
exhibitionism. Indeed, when I was discussing the posi- 
tions and technique of the sexual act, the statement was 
volunteered that there are specially unobtrusive ways of 
doing it "so as not to wake up the other people in the 



Of course, two lovers living together in a hukumatula 
are not bound to each other by any ties valid in tribal 
law or imposed by custom. They forgather under the 
spell of personal attraction, are kept together by sexual 
passion or personal attachment, and part at will. The 
fact that in due course a permanent liaison often develops 
out of a temporary one and ends in marriage is due to a 
complexity of causes, which we shall consider later j but 
even such a gradually strengthening liaison is not bind- 
ing until marriage is contracted. Bukumatula relation- 
ships, as such, impose no legal tie. 

Another important point is that the pair's community 
of interest is limited to the sexual relation only. The 
couple share a bed and nothing else. In the case of a per- 
manent liaison about to lead to marriage, they share it 
regularly 3 but they never have meals together 3 there are 
no services to be mutually rendered, they have no obli- 
gation to help each other in any way, there is, in short, 
nothing which would constitute a common menage. Only 
seldom can a girl be seen in front of a bachelors' house 
as in plate 21, and this as a rule means that she is very 
much at home there, that there has been a liaison of 
long standing and that the two are going to be married 
soon. This must be clearly realized, since such words as 
"liaison" and "concubinage," in the European use, usually 
imply a community of household goods and interests. In 
the French language, the expression vrure en menage^ 
describing typical concubinage, implies a shared domestic 
economy, and other phases of life in common, besides sex. 
In Kiriwina this phrase could not be correctly applied to 
a couple living together in the hukumatula. 



In the Trobriands two people about to be married must 
never have a meal in common. Such an act would greatly 
shock the moral susceptibility of a native, as well as his 
sense of propriety. To take a girl out to dinner without 
having previously married her — a thing permitted in Eu- 
rope — ^would be to disgrace her in the eyes of a Tro- 
briander. We object to an unmarried girl sharing a man's 
bed — the Trobriander would object just as strongly to 
her sharing his meal. The boys never eat within, or in 
front of, the bukumatulay but always join their parents 
or other relatives at every meal. 

The institution of the hukumatula is, therefore, char- 
acterized by: (i) individual appropriation, the partners 
of each couple belonging exclusively to one another j 
(2) strict decorum and absence of any orgiastic or las- 
civious display 5 (3) the lack of any legally binding ele- 
ment 5 (4) the exclusion of any other community of in- 
terest between a pair, save that of sexual cohabitation. 

Having described the liaisons which lead directly to 
marriage, we end our survey of the various stages of 
sexual life previous to wedlock. But we have not ex- 
hausted the subject — ^we have simply traced the normal 
course of sexuality and that in its main outlines only. 
We have yet to consider those licensed orgies to which 
reference has already been made, to go more deeply into 
the technique and psychology of love-making, to examine 
certain sexual taboos, and to glance at erotic myth and 
folk-lore. But before we deal with these subjects, it 
will be best to carry our descriptive narrative to its logical 
conclusion — marriage. 




The institution of marriage in the Trobriands, which is 
the theme of this and the following chapter, does not 
present on its surface any of those sensational features 
which would endear it to the "survival" monger, the 
"origin" hunter, and the dealer in "culture contacts." 
The natives of our Archipelago order their marriages as 
simply and sensibly as if they were modern European 
agnostics, without fuss, or ceremony, or waste of time 
and substance. The matrimonial knot, once tied, is firm 
and exclusive, at least in the ideal of tribal law, morality, 
and custom. As usual, however, ordinary human frailties 
play some havoc with the ideal. The Trobriand mar- 
riage customs again are sadly lacking in any such interest- 
ing relaxations as jus frlnue noctisy wife lending, wife 
exchange, or obligatory prostitution. The personal rela- 
tions between the two partners, while most illuminating 
as an example of the matrilineal type of marriage, do not 
present any of those "savage" features, so lurid, and at 
the same time so attractive to the antiquarian. 

If, however, we dig beneath the surface and lay bare 
the deeper aspects of this institution, we shall find our- 
selves face to face with certain facts of considerable im- 
portance and of a somewhat unusual type. We shall see 
that marriage imposes a permanent economic obligation 



on the members of the wife's family: for they have to 
contribute substantially towards the maintenance of the 
new household. Instead of having to buy his wife, the 
man receives a dowry, often relatively as tempting as 
that of a modern European or American heiress. This 
fact makes marriage among the Trobrianders a pivot in 
the constitution of tribal power, and in the whole eco- 
nomic system 3 a pivot, indeed, in almost every institution. 
Moreover, as far as our ethnological records go, it sets 
aside their marriage customs as unique among those of 
savage communities. 

Another feature of Trobriand marriage which is of 
supreme importance to the sociologist is the custom of 
infant betrothal. This is associated with cross-cousin 
marriage, and will be seen to have interesting implica- 
tions and consequences. 


The gradual strengthening of the bonds between two 
partners in a liaison, and the tendency to marry displayed 
at a certain stage of their mutual life in the bukumatula, 
have already been described in the foregoing chapter. 
We have seen how a couple who have lived together for 
a time and found that they want to marry, as it were 
advertise this fact by sleeping together regularly, by 
showing themselves together in public, and by remaining 
with each other for long periods at a time. 

Now this gradual ripening of the desire for marriage 



requires a more minute consideration than we have yet 
given it, especially as it is one of those general, seemingly 
obvious questions which do not challenge attention. Yet, 
if in a closer sociological study we try to place it in its 
proper perspective, and to bring it into harmony with 
other features of native life, a real problem at once be- 
comes evident. To us marriage appears as the final ex- 
pression of love and the desire for union j but in this case 
we have to ask ourselves why, in a society where mar- 
riage adds nothing to sexual freedom, and, indeed, takes 
a great deal away from it, where two lovers can possess 
each other as long as they like without legal obligation, 
they still wish to be bound in marriage. And this is a 
question to which the answer is by no means obvious. 

That there is a clear and spontaneous desire for mar- 
riage, and that there is a customary pressure towards it, 
are two separate facts about which there can be not the 
slightest doubt. For the first there are the unambiguous 
statements of individuals — ^that they married because they 
liked the idea of a life-long bond to that particular per- 
son — and for the second, the expression of public opinion, 
that certain people are well suited to each other and 
should therefore marry. 

I came across a number of cases in which I could ob- 
serve this desire for marriage developing over a prolonged 
period. When I came to Omarakana, I found several 
couples engaged to be married. The second youngest 
brother of Namwana Guya'u, Kalogusa (pi. 22), had 
been previously engaged to Dabugera, a girl of the 
highest rank, his father's sister's daughter's daughter (i.e. 



the matrilineal grand-niece of To'uluwa, the present 
chief and father of Kalogusa, see below, sec. 5). Dur- 
ing a particular absence of her betrothed, which lasted 
for a year, the girl married another man. On his return, 
Kalogusa consoled himself by upsetting the engagement 
of his elder brother, Yobukwa'u, and taking the latter's 
betrothed, Isepuna, for himself. These two, Kalogusa 
and Isepuna were very fond of each other; they were 
always together, and the boy was very jealous. The 
elder brother did not take his loss very seriously; he 
started a liaison with another girl, rather plain, lazy, 
trained in a Mission, and altogether unsatisfactory. Both 
brothers married their fiancees a few months after I be- 
came acquainted with them (see pi. 4, where Kalogusa 
is seen standing near the hut and Yobukwa'u in the centre, 
each behind his wife). 

Another man, Ulo Kadala, one of the less privileged 
sons of the chief, was deeply enamoured of a girl whose 
people, however, did not approve of the match. When 
I returned again after two years, these two were still not 
married, and I had an opportunity of witnessing the 
man's culminating failure to bring about the wedding. 
I often received confidences from boys longing to marry 
and faced by some obstacle. Some of them hoped to 
obtain material help from me, others to be backed by the 
white man's authority. It was clear that, in all such 
cases, the pair were already living sexually with each 
other, but that the thing which they specially desired 
was marriage. A great friend of mine, Monakewo, had 
a long and lasting intrigue with Dabugera, the niece of 



To'uluwa just mentioned, who by that time had divorced 
her first husband. He knew that he would never be able 
to marry her, for her rank was too high for him, and he 
was genuinely unhappy on this account. 

Such instances show clearly that young people want to 
marry, even when they already possess each other sex- 
ually, and that the state of marriage has real charm for 
them. But before I could entirely understand all the 
reasons and motives for this desire, I had to grasp the 
complexities and deeper aspects of the institution, and its 
relation to other elements in the social system. 

The first thing to be realized is that the Trobriander 
has no full status in social life until he is married. As 
we saw in the table of age designations, the current term 
for a man in the prime of life is tovavaygile (married 
man). A bachelor has no household of his own, and is 
debarred from many privileges. There are, in fact, no 
unmarried men of mature age, except idiots, incurable 
invalids, old widowers and albinos. Several men were 
widowed during my stay in the Islands, and others were 
deserted by their wives. The former remarried almost 
as soon as their mourning was over, the latter as soon as 
their attempts at reconciliation had proved fruitless. 

The same applies to women. Provided she is at all 
sexually tolerable, a widow or divorcee will not have long 
to wait. Once released from mourning, a widow again 
becomes marriageable. She may sometimes delay a lit- 
tle, in order to enjoy the sexual freedom of her unmar- 
ried state, but such conduct will ultimately draw on her 
the censure of public opinion, and a growing reputation 



for "immorality" — ^that is disregard of tribal usage — ^will 
force her to choose a new mate. 

Another very important reason for marriage, from the 
man's point of view, is economic advantage. Marriage 
brings with it a considerable yearly tribute in staple food, 
given to the husband by the wife's family. This obliga- 
tion is perhaps the most important factor in the whole 
social mechanism of Trobriand society. On it, through 
the institution of rank and through his privilege of po- 
lygamy, rests the authority of the chief, and his power 
to finance all ceremonial enterprises and festivities. Thus 
a man, especially if he be of rank and importance, is com- 
pelled to marry, for, apart from the fact that his eco- 
nomic position is strengthened by the income received 
from his wife's family, he obtains his full social status 
only by entering the group of tovavaygile. 

There is, further, the natural inclination of a man past 
his first youth to have a house and a household of his 
own. The services rendered by a woman to her husband 
are naturally attractive to a man of such an agej his 
craving for domesticity has developed, while his desire 
for change and amorous adventure has died down. 
Moreover, a household means children, and the Tro- 
briander has a natural longing for these. Although not 
considered of his own body nor as continuing his line, 
they yet give him that tender companionship for which, 
when he reaches twenty-five or thirty, he begins to crave. 
He has become used, it should be remembered, to play- 
ing with his sister's children and with those of other rela- 
tives or neighbours. 



These are the reasons — social, economic, practical and 
sentimental — which urge a man towards marriage. And 
last, though not least, personal devotion to a woman and 
the promise of prolonged companionship with one to 
whom he is attached, and with whom he has sexually 
lived, prompt him to make certain of her by means of a 
permanent tie, which shall be binding under tribal law. 

The woman, who has no economic inducement to 
marry, and who gains less in comfort and social status 
than the man, is mainly influenced by personal affection 
and the desire to have children in wedlock. 

This personal motive comes out very strongly in the 
course of love affairs which do not run smoothly, and 
brings us from the reasons for marriage in general to the 
motives which govern the individual's particular choice. 

In this matter it must ifirst be realized that the choice 
is limited from the outset. A number of girls are ex- 
cluded completely from a man's matrimonial horizon, 
namely those who belong to the same totemic class (see 
ch. xiii, sec. 5). Furthermore, there are certain endoga- 
mous restrictions, though these are by no means so pre- 
cisely defined as those imposed by exogamy. Endogamy 
enjoins marriage within the same political area, that is 
within some ten to twelve villages of the same district. 
The rigidity of this rule depends very much on the par- 
ticular district. For instance, one area in the north-west 
corner of the island is absolutely endogamous, for its in- 
habitants are so despised by the other Islanders that the 
latter would not dream either of marrying or of having 
sexual relations within it. Again, the members of the 



most aristocratic province of Kiriwina seldom marry out- 
side their own district, except into the neighbouring island 
of Kitava, or into certain eminent families from one or 
two outside villages (see also ch. xiii, sec. 5). 

Even within this limited geographical area, there are 
further restrictions on the choice of a mate, and these are 
due to rank. Thus, members of the highest sub-clan, 
the Tabalu, and more especially their women, would not 
marry into a sub-clan of very low caste, and a certain 
correspondence in nobility is considered desirable even in 
marriage between less important people. 

It follows that choice must be made from among per- 
sons who are not of the same clan, who are not widely 
different in rank, who reside within the convenient geo- 
graphical area, and who are of a suitable age. In this 
limited field, however, there is still sufficient freedom of 
selection to allow of manages d^atnour^ de raison, et de 
convenance; and, as with Kalogusa and Isepuna of whom 
I have spoken, individual preference and love are often 
the determining factors of choice. And many other mar- 
ried couples, whom I knew well personally, had been 
governed in their choice by the same motive. This could 
be gathered from their history, and from the happy, 
harmonious tone of their common life. 

There are also fnariages de convenance^ where wealth, 
that is the quantity of yams which a girl's family can pro- 
vide, or pedigree, or status has determined the choice. 
Such considerations have, of course, a special importance 
in marriage by infant betrothal, of which we shall speak 




Permanent liaisons which are on the point of ripening 
into marriage become known and are talked about in the 
village, and now the girl's family, who, so far, have taken 
no interest in her love aflFairs, who have, indeed, kept 
ostentatiously aloof, must face the fact about to be ac- 
complished, and make up their minds whether or no they 
will approve it. The man's family, on the other hand, 
need show little interest in a matter in which they have 
practically no say. A man is almost entirely independent 
with regard to matrimony, and his marriage, which will 
be a matter of constant and considerable effort and worry 
to his wife's family, will continue to lie completely out- 
side the sphere of his own people's concerns. 

It is remarkable that, of all the girl's family, the per- 
son who has most to say about her marriage, although 
legally he is not reckoned as her kinsman (veyola)^ is her 
father. I was astonished when this information was 
given to me early in the course of my field work, but it 
was fully confirmed later on by observation. This para- 
doxical state of affairs becomes less incomprehensible, 
however, if we bring it into relation with certain rules of 
morals and etiquette, and with the economic aspect of 
marriage. One would naturally expect a girl's brothers 
and maternal kinsmen to take the most important part in 
deliberations concerning her marriage, but the strict taboo 
which rules that the brother must have nothing at all to 


do with the love affairs of his sister, and her other ma- 
ternal kinsmen but little, debars them from any control 
over her matrimonial plans. 

Thus, although her mother's brother is her legal 
guardian, and her own brothers will in the future oc- 
cupy the same position with regard to her own household, 
they must all remain passive until the marriage is an 
accomplished fact. The father, say the natives, acts in 
this matter as the spokesman of the mother, who is the 
proper person to deliberate upon her daughter's love in- 
trigues and marriage. It will also be seen that the father 
is closely concerned in the work of his sons from the eco- 
nomic standpoint, and that, after the marriage of their 
sister, these will have to divide the fruits of their labour 
between her and their mother, instead of, as previously, 
giving them all to the parental household. When two 
lovers have decided on marriage, the young man becomes 
assiduous in his attentions to his sweetheart's family, and 
perhaps her father will, on his own initiative, say: "You 
sleep with my child: very well, marry her." As a matter 
of fact, if the family are well disposed to the youth, they 
will always take this initiative either by such a direct dec- 
laration or else by asking him for small gifts, an equally 
unambiguous indication that he is accepted. 

When the family are definitely opposed to the match 
and give no sign of goodwill, the boy may take the ini- 
tiative and plead on his own behalf. If he is refused it 
may be either because he is of too low a rank, or because 
he is notoriously lazy, and would be too great a drag on 
his future relatives-in-law, or else because the girl is in- 



tended for someone else. After such a refusal, the pair 
may relinquish their plans, or, if they are strong enough 
to fight the matter out, they may try to bring about their 
marriage in the teeth of opposition. If they decide to do 
this, the bride stays in her lover's house (that is, in his 
parents' house), as if she were really married, and the 
news is spread abroad that the man is attempting to wed 
her in spite of her people. Sometimes the two actually 
elope and go to another village in the hope of impressing 
and mortifying their hard-hearted opponents. In any 
case, they stay indoors all day, and do not eat any food 
to see if this will soften the hearts of her family. This 
abstention from the common meal, which, as we know, 
constitutes a definite declaration of marriage, shows that 
they are still waiting for her family's consent. 

In the meantime, the boy's father or maternal uncle 
may go as an ambassador to the girl's family and offer 
them a gift of high value to melt their resistance. Under 
this combined pressure the latter may give in, and send 
the customary present to the young couple. If, on the 
other hand, they do not relent, they repair in great num- 
bers to the spot where the girl stays with the youth and 
"pull her back," a customary and technical expression, but 
one which also indicates what actually occurs. The boy's 
relatives and friends may possibly oppose the "pulling 
back," and then a scuffle will ensue. But the girl's people 
always have the whip hand, for, as long as they withhold 
their consent, nobody can force them to supply the pair 
with food, and without this the household is soon dis- 
solved in the natural course. 



A few examples of such abortive marriage occurred in 
my own experience. Mekala'i, a boy whom I often used 
as a temporary servant, became enamoured of Bodulela, 
a really attractive young girl, and the step-daughter of the 
headman of Kabululo, who, as was well known in the vil- 
lage, lived incestuously with her (see ch. xiii, sec. 6). 
Mekala'i made an heroic attempt to abduct and retain her 
in his parents' house in Kasana'i, but he had no wealthy 
relatives or powerful friends to back him up. On the 
first afternoon of their joint life, the headman of Kabu- 
lulo simply walked over to Kasana'i, took his abashed and 
truant step-daughter by the hand, and led her back to his 
own house j that was the end. 

Another and a more complicated case was that of Ulo 
Kadala, who was mentioned in the last section. He 
wooed a girl during my first stay in Omarakana and was 
refused by her parents. The couple attempted to settle 
down to married life, but the family pulled the girl back 
by force. Ulo Kadala still continued his faithful court- 
ship. On my second visit to Omarakana two years later, 
the girl came to the village once more and took up her 
abode in the house of Isupwana, the adoptive mother of 
Ulo Kadala, a stone's throw from my tent. This second 
attempt at marriage lasted, I think, for a day or two, 
while To'uluwa was making some not very energetic ef- 
forts towards reconciliation. One afternoon the parents 
arrived from the neighbouring village, and laid hold of 
the girl and unceremoniously carried her away. The pro- 
cession passed in front of my tent, the wailing girl led by 
her father and followed by vociferous partisans, wha 



hurled abuse at each other. The girPs people said quite 
explicitly what they thought of Ulo Kadala, of his lazi- 
ness, his incapacity for doing anything properly, and his 
well-known greed. "We do not want you, we shall not 
give her any food." This argument clinched the refusal, 
and that was the last attempt which the two young peo- 
ple made. 

When the parents are well disposed and signify their 
pleasure in the match by asking the intended for a small 
present, the engaged couple must still wait for a little in 
order to give necessary time for the preparations. But 
one day the girl instead of returning in the morning to 
her parents' house, will remain with her husband, take 
her meals in the house of his parents and accompany him 
throughout the day. The word goes round: "Isepuna is 
already married to Kalogusa." Such proceedings consti- 
tute the act of marriage. There is no other rite, no other 
ceremony to mark the beginnings of wedlock. From the 
morning on which she has remained with the bridegroom, 
the girl is married to him, provided, of course, the con- 
sent of the parents has been given. Without this, as we 
have seen, the act constitutes only an attempt at marriage. 
Though utterly simple, this act of remaining with the 
man, of openly sharing a meal with him, and of staying 
under his roof, has a legally binding force. It is the con- 
ventional public declaration of marriage. It has serious 
consequences, for it changes the life of the two concerned, 
and it imposes considerable obligations on the girl's fam- 
ily, obligations associated in turn with counter-obligations 
on the part of the bridegroom. 




This simple declaration of marriage is followed by 
that exchange of gifts which is so typical of any social 
transaction in the Trobriands. Each gift is definite in 
nature and quantity, each has to take its proper place in 
a series and each is reciprocated by some corresponding 
contribution. The subjoined table will help to make 
clear the description which follows it: 

Marriage Gifts 

!i. Katuvila — cooked yams, brought in baskets by the girl's 
parents to the boy's family. 
3. Pepe'i — several baskets of uncooked yams, one given by 
each of the girl's relatives to the boy's parents. 
3. Kaykaboma — cooked vegetables, each member of the girl's 
family bringing one platter to the boy's house. 
/4. Mapula Kaykaboma — repayment of gift (3), given in 
,, j exactly the same form and material by the boy's rela- 

■p__p < tives to the girl's family. 

I 5. Takivalela Pepe'i — valuables given by the boy's father in 
^ repayment of gift (2) to the girl's father. 

TTT ( ^' ^^^^^^f^^ — ^ large quantity of yam-food offered at the 

^ g ■< first harvest after the marriage to the boy by the girl's 

( family. 

(7. Saykivala — gift of fish brought by the boy to his wife's 

IV ) father in repayment of (6). 

B — G \ 8. Takivalela Filakuria — a gift of valuables handed by the 

(^ boy's father to the girl's father in payment of (6). 

G — ^B (girl to boy), gifts from the girl's family; B — G, return gifts from 
the boy's relatives to the girl's. 

The girl's family have to make the first offering to 
signify their consent to the marriage. Since their agree- 
ment is absolutely essential, this gift, in conjunction with 
the public declaration of the union of the partners, con- 



stitutes marriage. It is a small gift, a little cooked food 
brought in baskets and offered by the girl's father to the 
boy's parents. It is set down in front of their house with 
the words kam katuvila, "thy katuvila gift." It must be 
given on the day on which the two remain together, or 
on the morning of the next day. As we have seen, when 
the consent of the girl's family is doubtful the two part- 
ners often abstain from food till this gift is brought. 

Soon afterwards, usually on the same day, the girl's 
relatives bring a bigger present. Her father, her ma- 
ternal uncle, and her brothers who now for the first time 
emerge from the inaction imposed on them by the spe- 
cific brother-sister taboo, each bring a basket of uncooked 
yam food, and offer it to the boy's parents. This gift is 
called fefe^i. But even this is not enough. A third of- 
fering of food is brought to the boy's parents, cooked this 
time and carried on large platters, such as can be seen on 
plates 4 and 5. This gift is called kaykaboma} 

The boy's family must not delay long before they re- 
ciprocate. The last gift, cooked food on trays, is returned 
almost immediately and in exactly the same form as it 
was received. A more important gift follows. The boy's 
father has already prepared certain valuables of the 
vaygu^a type, that is to say, large, polished axe-blades of 
green stone, necklaces of polished spondylus shell discs, 
and armlets made of the conus shelly also, when the sec- 

1 The reader who has grasped the complex psychology of ceremonial 
gifts in the kula and in associated activities will understand the great 
importance of the exchanges which accompany so many social transac- 
tions in the Trobriands. Cf. Argonauts of the Western Pacific, espe- 
cially chs. iii and vi. 



ond gift o£ uncooked food was brought to him by the 
girPs family, he made a small distribution of it among his 
own relatives, and they in turn now bring him other valu- 
ables to add to his own. All these he presents to the girl's 
family 3 he has kept the baskets in which the food was 
brought to him 3 he puts the valuables into these, and they 
are carried by himself and his family to the girl's house. 
This gift is called takwalela fefe^l^ or "repayment in valu- 
ables of the fefe*t gift." 

The reader is perhaps weary of all these petty details, 
but this meticulous absorption in small gifts and counter- 
gifts is highly characteristic of the Trobrianders. They 
are inclined to boast of their own gifts, with which they 
are entirely satisfied, while disputing the value and even 
quarrelling over what they themselves receive, but they 
regard these details as most important and observe them 
scrupulously. In the exchange of marriage gifts, as a 
rule, they are less cantankerous than on other occasions, 
and a more generous and friendly spirit prevails. After 
the takwalela fefe^i there is a long pause in the exchange 
of gifts, which lasts until the next harvest. During this 
time and while the couple's own dwelling is being built, 
the wife usually remains with her husband in his father's 
house. At harvest time they will receive the first sub- 
stantial gift due from the girl's family, and of this they 
will themselves make a distribution by way of payment 
to those who have helped in the building of their new 

To resume, then, the girl's family give a present of 
considerable value at the next harvest, and from then on 



at every harvest they will have to help the new house- 
hold with a substantial contribution of fresh yams. The 
first present of this sort, however, has a special name 
(vilakuria), and is surrounded by a ceremonial of its own. 
Prism-shaped receptacles (pwata^i) sltq constructed of 
poles, in front of the young couple's yam-house (see pis. 
23 and 24), and the girPs family, after selecting a large 
quantity, a hundred, two hundred, or even three hundred 
basketf uls of the best yams, arrange them in these recep- 
tacles with a great amount of ceremony and display. 

This gift also must be repaid without any too great 
delay. Fish is considered a proper counter-oflFering. In 
a coastal village, the husband will embark with his friends 
on a fishing expedition. If he lives inland, he has to pur- 
chase the fish in one of the coastal villages, paying for 
them in yams. 

The fish is laid in front of the girPs parents' house, 
with the words ^^Kam saykwala'^ (thy saykwala gift). 
Sometimes, if the young husband is very rich, or else if 
he and his family were not able previously to repay the 
pepe^i present, a gift of vaygu^a (valuables) will be given 
at this point in answer to the first harvest oflFering. This 
is called takwalela vilakuria (repayment by valuables of 
the vilakuria present), and closes the series of initial mar- 
riage gifts. 

This series of gifts appears at first sight unnecessarily 
complicated. But, if we examine it more closely, we find 
that it represents a continuous story, and is no mere dis- 
connected jumble of incident. In the first place it ex- 
presses the leading principle in the economic relation 



which will subsequently obtain for the whole duration 
of the marriage: that the girl's family provide the newly 
established household with food, being occasionally repaid 
with valuables. The small initial gifts (i, 2, and 3), 
express the consent of the girl's family, and are a sort of 
earnest of their future and more considerable contribu- 
tions. The return offering of food (4), made immedi- 
ately by the boy's family, is a characteristically Trobriand 
answer to a compliment. And the only really substantial 
gifts from the bridegroom's family to the bride's (5, or 8, 
or both) exert a definitely binding force on the husband, 
for if the marriage be dissolved, he does not recover them 
save in exceptional cases. They are about equivalent in 
value to all the other first year's gifts put together. But 
this present from the husband must emphatically not be 
considered as purchase money for the bride. This idea 
is utterly opposed both to the native point of view and 
to the facts of the case. Marriage is meant to confer 
substantial material benefits on the man. These he re- 
pays at rare intervals with a gift of valuables, and it is 
such a gift that he has to offer at the moment of mar- 
riage. It is an anticipation of the benefits to follow, and 
by no means a price paid for the bride. 

It may be mentioned that not all of this series of gifts 
are equally indispensable. Of the first three, only one 
(either i or 2) must be given at all costs. Of the rest, 
6 and 7 are never omitted, while either 5 or 8 is abso- 
lutely obligatory. 

It is necessary, as I have already said, to enter into 
such minute details as these if we would approximate 



to the savage point of view. Closely observing the care 
and anxiety with which the gifts are gathered and given, 
it is possible to determine the psychology of the acts 
themselves. Thus Paluwa, the father of Isepuna, worried 
good-humouredly as to how he might collect sufficient 
food to offer to a chief's son, his daughter's future hus- 
band j and he discussed his troubles with me at length. 
He was faced by the difficulty of having three daughters 
and several female relatives, and only three sons. Every- 
body's working power had already been taxed to provide 
food for the other married daughters. And now Isepuna 
was going to wed Kalogusa, a man of high rank in his 
own right, and also a son of To'uluwa, the paramount 
chief. All his people exerted themselves to the utmost 
to produce as big a crop as possible that season, in order 
to be able to give a fine vilakuria present. And To'uluwa, 
the bridegroom's father, on his side, revealed to me his 
own anxiety. Could he provide a worthy counter gift? 
Times were hard, and yet something fine had to be given. 
I inspected several of the chief's valuables, and discussed 
their respective suitability with him. There was an under- 
current of suggestion, in the conversation of both parties, 
that some tobacco from the white man would be a much 
appreciated addition to either gift. 



There is another way of arranging marriages in the 
Trobriands beside the ordinary method of courtship, and 



in many respects the two are in sharp contrast to each 
other. Normal marriage is brought about by free choice, 
by trialj and by the gradual strengthening of bonds which 
assume a legal obligation only after marriage. In mar- 
riage by infant betrothal, a binding agreement is made by 
the parents in the children's infancy 5 the boy and girl 
grow up into the relationship, and find themselves bound 
to each other before they have had an opportunity to 
choose for themselves. 

The great importance of this second type of marriage 
lies in the fact that infant betrothal is always associated 
with cross-cousin marriage. The two people who, accord- 
ing to native ideas, are most suited for marriage with 
each other — a man's son and the daughter of his sister — 
are betrothed in infancy. When the father's sister's 
daughter is too old to be betrothed to her male infant 
cousin, her daughter may replace her. By the native 
legal system the two are equivalent, for the purposes of 
this marriage. 

The significance of this institution can be understood 
only if we return to a consideration of the compromise 
between father-love and matriliny.^ Cross-cousin mar- 
riage is an arrangement whereby both tribal law, which 
enjoins matrilineal succession, and the promptings of 
paternal love, which incline the father to bestow all pos- 
sible privileges on his son, find equitable adjustment and 
adequate satisfaction. 

Let us take a concrete instance. A chief, a village 
headman — or, indeed, any man of rank, wealth, and 

^ Cf. also Crime and Custom^ 



power, will give to a favourite son all that he can safely 
alienate from his heirs j some plots in the village lands, 
privileges in fishing and hunting, some of the hereditary- 
magic, a position in the kula exchange, a privileged place 
in the canoe and precedence in dancing. Often the son 
becomes in some sort his father's lieutenant, performing 
magic instead of him, leading the men in tribal council, 
and displaying his personal charm and influence on all 
those occasions when a man may win the much-coveted 
butura (renown). As examples of this tendency, which I 
have found in every community where there was a chief of 
outstanding influence, we may take the arrogant Namwana 
Guya'u, before his banishment the leading figure in the 
village life of Omarakana (see ch. i, sec. 2). Again, in 
the sister village of Kasana'i, the chief's son Kayla'i, a 
modest and good-natured fellow, wielded the power of 
thunder and sunshine in virtue of the supreme system of 
weather-magic which his father had imparted to him. 
And the coastal villages of Kavataria, Sinaketa, Tuk- 
wa'ukwa, each had its leader in a son of the chief. But 
such privileged positions are invidious and insecure, even 
while they last, as the rightful heirs and owners in 
matriliny resent being pushed aside during the lifetime 
of the chief 5 and, in any case, all such benefits cease with 
the father's death. There is only one way by which the 
chief can establish his son permanently in the village with 
rights of full citizenship for himself and his progeny, and 
secure possession of all the gifts until death j and that 
is by contracting the son in paternal cross-cousin marriage, 
marriage with his sister's daughter or with this daughter's 



daughter. The following diagram will help to make the 
genealogy of the relation clear. 

Diagrammatic Genealogy of Cross-Cousin Marriage 

Chief $ = == $ Chief's sister 

$ Chief's daughter Chief's son ^ = $ Chief's sister's $ Chief sister's 
I daughter I son and his 

: Orthodox cross-cousin j 

i marriage j 

i heir 

Between these j 
< two > J 

marriage is not lawful 

Our diagrammatical chief has a sister j and she has a 
son, the chief's heir and successor, and a daughter, the 
chief's niece by his sister, a girl who will continue the 
aristocratic line. The husband of this girl will enjoy a 
very privileged position, into which he will step on the 
day of his marriage. By native law and custom he will 
have a definite claim on his wife's brother or brothers 
and other male relatives, who will be obliged to give him 
annual tribute of food, and will be considered his ex- 
officio allies, friends, and helpers. He also acquires the 
right to live in the village if he choose, and to participate 
in tribal affairs and in magic. It is clear, therefore, that 
he will occupy practically the same position as that en- 
joyed by the chief's son during his father's lifetime, and 



from which he is ousted by the rightful heir at his father's 
death. This type of marriage difFers from the ordinary 
one also in that the husband comes to live in his wife's 
community. Cross-cousin marriage is thus matrilocal in 
contradistinction to the ordinary patrilocal usage.^ 

The obvious and natural solution, therefore, of the 
chief's difficulty is to marry his son to his niece or grand- 
niece. Usually all parties benefit by the transaction. The 
chief and his son get what they want 5 the chief's niece 
marries the most influential man in the village, and in so 
doing confirms this influence j and an alliance is established 
between the son of the chief and his lawful heirs which 
frustrates the potential rivalry between them. The girl's 
brother cannot oppose the marriage, because of the taboo 
(see ch. xiii, sec. 6) 3 nor, as it is contracted in the chief's 
son's infancy, would he normally be in a position to do so. 

Whenever there is a possibility of it, a cross-cousin 
marriage will always be arranged, a fact which is well 
illustrated in the family of To'uluwa (see the adjacent 

When Namwana Guya'u, the eldest son of To'uluwa's 
favourite and most aristocratic wife, was born, there was 
no marriageable girl available for him in his father's 

1 1 think that any man could settle In his wife's community if he wished. 
But by doing so, he would both degrade himself and suffer disabilities. 
A chief's son, however, is an exception owing to his position in the village 
and his vested interests. 



family, that is to say, among To'uluwa's maternal kins- 
women. Ibo'una and Nakaykwase were, by that time, 
almost marriageable and could not be affianced to a little 
child, and their daughters were yet unborn. And the 
pedigree shows no other female in the sub-clan of the 
Tabalu, To'uluwa's matrilineal lineage. But by the time 
a younger son, Kalogusa, was born to To'uluwa, his 
grand-niece, Ibo'una, had a small daughter, Dabugeraj 
therefore the two were betrothed. In this case the cross- 
cousin marriage failed, for, as we have seen (see above, 
sec. i), the girl married another man during her fiance's 
absence abroad. 

In the same pedigree we can take another example 
from the previous generation. Purayasi, the penultimate 
chief of Omarakana, had a son called Yowana, who 
belonged to the same sub-clan as Namwana Guya'u. 
Yowana was a man of great talent and strong personality 5 
he was renowned for his mastery of several systems of 
important magic which he performed for his father, and 
for his skill as a gardener, sailor, and dancer. He married 
Kadubulami, Purayasi's grand-niece, and lived all his life 
in Omarakana in the enjoyment of his personal privileges. 
He instructed his son, Bagido'u, the present heir apparent, 
in all his magical and other accomplishments. 

In his turn Bagido'u had a son by his first wife, but he 
died in infancy. This child, soon after birth, had been 
betrothed to an infant daughter of Bagido'u's youngest 
sister Nakaykwase. Thus, in one small pedigree, we see 
three cases of cross-cousin marriage arranged by infant 
betrothal. It must be remembered, however, that this 




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5S OS 








pedigree includes the noblest family of the chieftains of 
Omarakana and the sub-clan Kwoynama of Osapola, both 
regarded as especially suitable for entering into matri- 
monial alliance. 

Cross-cousin marriage is, undoubtedly, a compromise 
between the two ill-adjusted principles of mother-right 
and father-love^ and this is its main raison cPetre. The 
natives are not, of course, capable of a consistent theo- 
retical statement 5 but in their arguments and formulated 
motives this explanation of the why and wherefore of the 
institution is implicit, in an unmistakable though piecemeal 
form. Several points of view are expressed and reasons 
given by them which throw some further light on their 
ideas, but all, if pushed to a conclusion, point to the same 
ultimate reason for cross-cousin marriage. Sometimes, 
for instance, it will be stated as a rider to the principle 
of exogamy that "the marriage between brother and sister 
is wrong" ("brother and sister" in the extended sense, 
all people of opposite sex and of the same generation re- 
lated through the mother). "To marry a tabula (cross- 
cousin) is right j the true tabula (the first cross-cousin) is 
the proper wife for us." 

Let us make clear one more point: among all the mar- 
riages possible between cousins, only one is lawful and 
desirable for the Trobriander. Two young people of 
opposite sex, whose mothers are sisters, are, of course, 
subject to the strict sexual taboo which obtains between 
brother and sister. A boy and a girl who are the children 
of two brothers stand in no special relation to each other. 
They may marry if they like, but there is no reason why 



they should 5 no special custom or institution is connected 
with such a relationship, since in a matrilineal society it 
is irrelevant. Only a boy and a girl, descendants of a 
brother and sister respectively, can conclude a marriage 
which is lawful and which, at the same time, stands out 
from mere haphazard alliances 3 for here, as we have seen, 
a man gives his own kinswoman to his son for a wife. 
But an important point must here be noted: the man's son 
has to marry the woman's daughter, and not the man's 
daughter the woman's son. Only in the former combina- 
tion do the two people call each other tabugUy a term 
which implies lawfulness of sexual intercourse. The 
other couple joined by a dotted line on the diagram 
(sec. 4) stand in a different relation according to native 
ideas of kinship (see the discussion of these kinship terms 
in ch. xiii, sec. 6). A girl calls the son of her father's 
sister tamagu "my father." Marriage with the real father 
or with the father's brother is incestuous and strictly 
tabooed. Marriage with the tama ("father"=father's 
sister's son) is not incestuous, but it is viewed with dis- 
favour and happens only rarely. Such a marriage offers 
few inducements. A chief might like his daughter to be 
married to another chief or to a man of rank in his own 
family, but she would not thus acquire any specially high 
or privileged position. On the other hand, as his 
daughter will have to be supported by the same men who 
now work for her mother, the chief's wife, he may prefer 
for his own sake to marry her to a humbler and less exact- 
ing person than his heir. It all depends on his relations 



with his heir, which are, as we have seen, by no means so 
uniformly friendly and intimate as those with his own 

The advantages of cross-cousin marriage were put to 
me from another point of view by Bagido'u, when I asked 
him why he had wanted his little son Purayasi to marry 
Kabwaynaya. "I wanted a daughter-in-law who would 
be my real kinswoman," he said. "I wanted, when I got 
old, to have someone of my family to look after me 5 to 
cook my foodj to bring me my lime-pot and lime-stick, to 
pull out my grey hairs. It is bad to have a stranger to 
do that. When it is someone of my own people, I am 
not afraid." His fear was, of course, of sorcery. It 
should be realized that since marriage is patrilocal, and 
since the son, in the case of important people, often re- 
mains near the father, this latter has good reasons to be 
interested in his daughter-in-law. Since she is his kins- 
woman there is yet another justification for his son's resi- 
dence in the father's community. Thus we are brought 
back to cross-cousin marriage as the reconciling compro- 
mise between the claims of father-love and matriliny. 
The man may have to rely, in his old age, on the atten- 
tions of his son and his son's wife, but neither of them 
are his real kindred unless the daughter-in-law is also his 
sister's child. In spite of his personal affection for his 
son, he prefers to have someone of his own veyola (ma- 
ternal kindred) about him, and this can only be achieved 
if the son marries the right cross-cousin, that is the father's 
sister's daughter or her daughter. 




Now that we have grasped the principles of cross- 
cousin marriage, a brief account must be given of the 
steps and ceremonies by which it is brought about. The 
initiative is always taken by the brother, who, on behalf 
of his son, asks his sister for the hand of her daughter in 
marriage. A man has a definite right to make such a 
request 5 as the natives say: "Is he not the kadala (mater- 
nal uncle) of the girl? Are his sister and her child not his 
real veyola (maternal kindred)? Has he not raised the 
prigubu (annual harvest contribution) for the house- 

The request may be made when the son is born, if his 
sister has a daughter, or perhaps a granddaughter (daugh- 
ter's daughter), who will not be too old to become the 
wife of the new-born infant later on. The disparity of 
age should never exceed two or three years. 

Or the boy's father may wait, and if within ten years 
or so a girl is born to his sister, he may requisition her as 
a future daughter-in-law. His sister is not allowed to 
refuse his application. Soon after the preliminary agree- 
ment has been concluded, the man has to take a vaygu^a 
(valuable), a polished axe-blade or shell ornament, and 
give it to his sister's husband, the father {tamo) of the 
infant bride. "This is the katufwoyna kapo^ula for your 
child," he says, and adds that it is given "so that she may 



not sleep with men, nor make katuyausi (licentious esca- 
pades), nor sleep in the hukumatula (bachelors' house). 
She must sleep in her mother's house only." Shortly- 
after this, three gifts of food are offered by the girl's 
family to the boy's father. They are similar in nature 
to the three initial gifts in ordinary marriage, and are 
designated by the same names: ka-tuvilay fefe^iy and 

The natives regard vayfokala (infant betrothal) as 
equivalent to actual marriage. The betrothed are spoken 
of as husband and wife, and thus address each other. As 
in adult wedding, the three gifts are considered to con- 
clude the marriage and the infant bridegroom's family 
have to repay the last present by a return gift of food — 
mafula kaykaboma. At the next harvest, the girl's father 
brings a vilakuria (substantial contribution of yam food) 
to the boy's parents. This latter fact is interesting, since 
it is a reversal, on account of the anticipated marriage, 
of what happens in the previous' generation. The boy's 
father, who is the brother of the girl's mother, has to give 
a harvest gift year by year to the girl's parents j and this 
at the time of his sister's marriage he had inaugurated by 
a gift of vilakuria. Now he receives on behalf of his 
infant son a vilakuria gift from his sister's husband, who- 
acts as the representative of his own son or sons, that is 
the brother or brothers of the future bride, who later on 
will annually bring substantial harvest offerings to the 
household, when it becomes such. As yet, however, the 
yearly urigubu (harvest gifts) do not follow the first 



offering of crops (the vilakuria)^ and this interval in the 
exchange of gifts lasts until betrothal culminates in actual 

This concludes the preliminary exchange of gifts at 
infant betrothal. Although it is called by the natives a 
marriage, the de facto difference between betrothal and 
marriage is recognized in the explicit statements of the 
natives and in custom, for when the two grow up they 
have to marry again. The bride, that is, has to go offi- 
cially to the bridegroom's house, share his bed there, take 
her meals with him and be publicly announced to have 
married him. The initial gifts of ordinary marriage, 
however (Nos. 1-4 of the table in sec. 3) are omitted on 
this occasion. Only the large harvest gift (vilakuria), 
and its repayment {takwalela vilakuria) are exchanged. 

But before this stage is reached and the two are safely 
married, a somewhat difficult course has to be steered. 
Although nobody seriously expects the young people to 
be chaste and faithful to each other, appearances have to 
be kept up. A flagrant transgression of the obligation to 
the betrothed would be resented by the offended party, 
and with some exaggeration called "adultery." It is con- 
sidered a great shame to the girl if her fiance openly has 
a liaison with someone else, and she on her side must 
not make a hukufnutula her permanent abode either in 
the company of her betrothed or of anyone else j nor may 
she go to other villages on those avowedly sexual expedi- 
tions called katuyausi (see ch. ix, sec. 7). Both parties 
to the betrothal must carry on their amours discreetly and 
sub rosa. This, of course, is neither easy nor pleasant for 



them, and they tread the strait path of superficial 
decorum only under heavy pressure. The boy knows 
what he has to lose, so he is as careful as he can bring 
himself to be. Also, the father controls his son to some 
extent, and at the same time exercises some authority over 
his future daughter-in-law, through his status of maternal 
uncle. A man who had betrothed his son and niece to 
each other put the matter thus to me: "She is afraid that 
she might die (that is, by sorcery), or that I might hit 
her." And, of course, her mother is very careful and does 
what she can to conceal and make light of her daughter's 

In spite of this, friction is common and ruptures not 
unknown. One of my earliest informants was Gomaya 
of Sinaketa, an enterprising, but very lazy and dishonest 
man, and a great coureur de jermnes, I got his story 
partly from himself, partly from gossip, and partly by 
personal observation. He was betrothed to his cross- 
cousin, but in spite of this, entered into a flagrant intrigue 
with a good-looking girl, one Ilamweria of Wakayse, a 
village near Omarakana (see ch. vii, sec. 4). Once, when 
he brought this girl to Sinaketa, the kinsmen of his fiancee 
wanted to kill her and she had to run away. When 
Gomaya grew tired of his amour and went back to his 
native village, he wished to sleep with his betrothed, but 
she refused. "You always sleep with Ilamweria," she 
said, "so go to her." He at once applied to a man 
acquainted with love magic and asked for a spell, saying: 
"I want to sleep with my wife (that is, my fiancee) j she 
refuses me. I must make some magic over her." And 



it was only after the required rites had been performed 
that she yielded. The marriage, however, was never 
completed, for in the end her parents dismissed him as 
a lazy good-for-nothing. The presents were not re- 
turned, for this is not customary when a cross-cousin 
betrothal is dissolved. We have also seen that the be- 
trothal between Kalogusa and Dabugera never resulted 
in marriage. But in my opinion both these failures, which 
are of recent date, were largely due to the subversive in- 
fluence of the white man on native custom. 

In the foregoing sections we have given an account of 
the various inducements to marriage and of the two 
modes of contracting it. In the next chapter we shall 
pass to a description of the phases of wedded life itself, 
and of the sociological features of marriage as an institu- 




Husband and wife in the Trobriands lead their common 
life in close companionship, working side by side, sharing 
certain of the household duties, and spending a good deal 
of their leisure with each other, for the most part in 
excellent harmony and with mutual appreciation. We 
have already visited a native household, while taking a 
general survey of the relations between the sexes, and 
have gained this impression from our preliminary inspec- 
tion. With our present greater knowledge of Trobriand 
sociology, and better understanding of sexual matters, we 
must now reconsider the subject of the personal relations 
between husband and wife. 


We left the young couple starting their common life 
in the hut of the bridegroom's parents j here they remain 
until the protracted series of marriage gifts and counter- 
gifts, and the redistribution of every one of these among 
more distant relatives, has been completed. Only about 
the time of the next harvest do they build their own 
home 3 until then they have to spend a protracted "honey- 



moon" under the parental roof. This must seem a most 
unsatisfactory state of affairs to the European reader. 
But he must avoid drawing too close a parallel to our 
own conditions. The young people have left the pas- 
sionate stages of their life together behind them in the 
bukumatulay and the initial months of matrimony, on 
which they now enter, are not of predominantly sexual 
interest to them. Now it is the change in their social 
status, and the alteration which their relations undergo, 
both towards their own families and towards the other 
people in the village, which mainly preoccupy them. 

Although there is no definite sexual taboo at this time, 
the newly wedded couple probably think less of love- 
making during the stage which corresponds to our honey- 
moon than they have done for a long time previously. 
I have heard this statement volunteered: "We feel 
ashamed in the house of our mother and father. In the 
bukumatula a man has intercourse with his sweetheart 
before they marry. Afterwards they sleep on the same 
bunk in the parental house, but they do not take off their 
garments." The young couple suffer from the embar- 
rassment of new conditions. The earlier nights of 
marriage are a natural period of abstinence. 

When the pair move on to their own hut, they may 
or may not share the same bunk 5 there seems to be no 
rule in this matter. Some of my native authorities 
specifically informed me that married couples always sleep 
in the same bed at first, but later on they separate and 
come together only for intercourse. I suspect, however, 



that this is rather a piece of cynical philosophy than a 
statement of accepted usage. 

It must be remembered that it is impossible to get 
direct information from any man concerning his own 
conjugal lifej for in this matter a very strict etiquette 
has to be observed. In speaking to a husband the slightest 
allusion to this must be avoided. Nor is any reference 
allowed to their common sexual past, nor to the woman's 
previous love adventures with other men. It would be 
an unpardonable breach of etiquette were you to men- 
tion, even unwittingly and in passing, the good looks of 
a wife to her husband: the man would walk away and 
not come near you for a long time. The Trobriander's 
grossest and most unpardonable form of swearing or 
insult is Kwoy um kwava (copulate with thy wife). It 
leads to murder, sorcery, or suicide (see ch. xiii, sec. 4). 

There is an interesting and, indeed, startling contrast 
between the free and easy manner which normally obtains 
between husband and wife, and their rigid propriety in 
matters of sex, their restraint of any gesture which might 
suggest the tender relation between them. When they 
walk, they never take hands or put their arms about each 
other in the way, called kayfafa^ which is permitted to 
lovers and to friends of the same sex. Walking with a 
married couple one day, I suggested to the man that he 
might support his wife, who had a sore foot and was 
limping badly. Both smiled and looked on the ground 
in great embarrassment, evidently abashed by my im- 
proper suggestion. Ordinarily a married couple walk 
one behind the other in single file. On public and festival 



occasions they usually separate, the wife joining a group 
of other women, the husband going with the men. You 
will never surprise an exchange of tender looks, loving 
smiles, or amorous banter between a husband and wife in 
the Trobriands. 

To quote a terse statement of the case made by one of 
my informants: "A man who puts his arm round his 
wife on the baku (central place of the village, i.e. in 
public) 5 a man who lies down beside his wife on his yam- 
house platform — he is a fool. If we take hold of our 
wife by the hand — ^we act as fools. If a husband and 
wife catch each other's lice on the haku — that is correct" 
(see pi. 25), With the possible exception of the last 
point, it will be conceded that married couples in the 
Trobriands push their etiquette to a point which would 
seem unnaturally exaggerated and burdensome to us. 

This punctilio, as we know, does not preclude good- 
humoured familiarity in other respects. Husband and 
wife may talk and exchange banter in public as long as 
any allusion to sex is rigidly excluded. Generally speak- 
ing, husband and wife remain on excellent terms, and 
show a marked liking for each other's company. In 
Omarakana, Oburaku, Sinaketa, and in the many other 
places where I became intimately acquainted with the 
domestic life of the people, I found the majority of 
couples united by unwavering sexual attachment or by real 
congeniality of temperament. Kalogusa and his wife, to 
take an instance from among friends already mentioned, 
I found as good comrades after two years of marriage 
as in the days of courtship. And Kuwo'igu, the wife of 



my best informant and chief favourite, Tokulubakiki, 
made him a good mate, for the two were well-matched 
in looks, in dignity, in decency of character and in sweet- 
ness of temper (see pi. 26). Mitakata and his wife 
Orayayse, before their divorce, Towese'i and Ta'uyaj 
Namwana Guya'u and Ibomala were all, in spite of occa- 
sional differences, excellent friends and companions. Be- 
tween older couples also a real affection is sometimes 
found. The chief, To'uluwa, for instance, was genuinely 
attached to his wife, Kadamwasila. But affection, in some 
cases, is not sufficient to stand against the stress of cir- 
cumstance. Thus Mitakata and Orayayse, an exemplary 
couple when I first knew them in 191 5, were forced apart 
by the quarrel between the husband and the wife's kins- 
man, Namwana Guya'u (ch. i, sec. 2). Two of the finest 
looking people whom I knew in the Trobriands, Tomeda 
of Kasana'i, and his wife, Sayabiya, whom I had supposed 
most tenderly attached during my first visit, were already 
divorced on my return. But the existence of attachments 
lasting into old age shows that conjugal affection in the 
Trobriands can be real, even though perhaps it is not 
always deep. 

I seldom witnessed quarrels or heard bad language 
among married people. If a woman is a shrew {uriweri) 
and the husband not sufficiently dominated to bear the fact 
meekly, or vice versa^ marriage is so easily dissolved that 
there is hardly ever an unsuccessful match which survives 
the first outbreak long. I can remember only two or three 
households, where relations between husband and wife 
were outwardly and chronically strained. Two married 



people in Oburaku frequently indulged in lengthy- 
quarrels, to such a degree that the matter became a serious 
nuisance to me and disturbed my field-work. As their 
hut was next door to my tent/ I could hear all their do- 
mestic differences — it almost made me forget that I was 
among savages and imagine myself back among civilized 
people. MorovatOj a reliable informant and friend of 
mine, was ordered about by his wife and badly henpecked, 
and I could cite perhaps one more really unfortunate 
marriage in Sinaketa. That there are fewer matches in 
which the man, and not the woman, is the aggressor in the 
quarrel is probably due to the fact that it is a rather more 
serious loss to a man to break up a good home than it is 
to a woman (see next chapter). A couple living in Liluta 
used to have difficulties owing to the man's aggressive and 
jealous temper. Once, when he scolded and ill-treated 
his wife very brutally for making kula (ceremonial ex- 
change) of aromatic wreaths of the hutia flower with 
another man, she went away to her own village. I saw 
an embassy of several men come from the husband to the 
wife, bringing her reconciliation presents (lula). This 
was the only case of wife-beating which actually occurred 
during my stay in Kiriwina, and it was done in a fit of 


Jealousy, with or without adequate reason, and adultery 
are the two factors in tribal life which put most strain 
on the marriage tie. In law, custom and public opinion, 



sexual appropriation is exclusive. There is no lending of 
wives, no exchange, no waiving of marital rights in favour 
of another man. Any such breach of marital fidelity is as 
severely condemned in the Trobriands as it is in Christian 
principle and European lawj indeed the most puritanical 
public opinion among ourselves is not more strict. Need- 
less to say, however, the rules are as often and as easily 
broken, circumvented, and condoned as in our own 

In the Trobriands the norms are strict, and though 
deviations from them are frequent, they are neither open 
nor, if discovered, unatonedj they are certainly never 
taken as a matter of course. 

For example, in October, 191 5, during one of the 
chief's long absences overseas, the village of Omarakana 
was put under the usual taboo. After sunset, no people 
were supposed to leave their houses, no young men from 
the neighbourhood were allowed to pass through, the 
village was deserted save for one or two old men who 
had been appointed to keep watch. Night after night, 
when I was out in search of information, I found the 
streets empty, the houses shut, and no lights to be seen. 
The village might have been dead. Nor could I get 
anyone from Omarakana or the neighbourhood to come 
to my tent. One morning before I was up, a great com- 
motion arose at the other end of the village, and I could 
hear loud quarrelling and screaming. Startled, I hurried 
to make inquiries and was able to find one or two of my 
special friends in the angry, vociferating crowd, who told 
me what had occurred. Tokwaylabiga, one of the less 



noble sons of To'uluwa, the chief, who had not accom- 
panied his father, had left Omarakana on a visit. Re- 
turning before he was expected, he was told that his wif e^ 
Digiyagaya, had slept in his absence with another son of 
To'uluwa, Mwaydayle, and that they had that very morn- 
ing gone together to the gardens, the woman taking her 
water-bottles as a pretext. He ran after them and, 
according to gossip, found them under compromising 
conditions, though the real facts will never be known. 
Tokwaylabiga, not a very bloodthirsty man, vented his 
passion and revenged himself on his wife by smashing 
all her water-bottles. Obviously a philosopher like M. 
Bergeret, he did not want to cause any serious trouble, and 
yet was not willing to suppress his injured feelings alto- 
gether. The commotion which had attracted my attention 
was the reception given to husband and wife on their re- 
turn to the village 5 for the taboo had been broken, and 
all the citizens were out taking sides with one party or the 
other. The same evening I saw the outraged husband 
sitting beside his wife in perfect harmony.^ 

Another case of adultery has been previously men- 
tioned in the account of Namwana Guya'u's expulsion. 
Rightly or wrongly, he suspected his father's nephew and 
heir, Mitakata, of having committed adultery with his 
wife, Ibomala. But he also did not push his conjugal 
vindictiveness beyond bringing the case before the white 
magistrate, and after he left the capital, he and his wife 

1 Another case of breach of the sexual taboo imposed on the village 
during the chiefs absence has been described in Argonauts of the West" 
em Facile, p. 484. See also pp. 205-6 of that book. 



^ere to be seen together in his own village apparently 
■on excellent terms. 

There are more serious cases of conjugal infidelity on 
record, however. In a small village near Omarakana, 
there lived a man called Dudubile Kautala, who died in 
191 6, apparently of old age, and whose funeral I at- 
tended. I remember his wife, Kayawa, as a terrible old 
iiag, shrivelled like a mummy and smeared all over with 
grease and soot as a sign of mourning^ and I can still 
feel the dreadful atmosphere pervading her little widow's 
cage, where I paid her a visit soon after her bereavement. 
History tells us, however, that once she was fair and 
tempting, so that men were driven to suicide for her. 
Molatagula, chief of a neighbouring village, was among 
those who succumbed to her beauty. One day, when the 
husband had gone to procure fish from a lagoon village, 
the love-sick chieftain entered Kayawa's house knowing 
her to be indoors — a gross breach of usage and manners. 
The story runs that Kayawa lay asleep naked upon her 
bed, offering a most alluring sight to the intruder, as the 
natives somewhat crudely put it. He approached her and 
took advantage of her sleep and helplessness, without, 
says my version, still gallantly partial to the lady, any 
connivance on her part. But when the husband returned, 
panting under a load of fish, he found them together. 
Both were undressed and there was more besides to com- 
promise them. The adulterer tried to carry it off with 
effrontery, and said he had only come to fetch some fire. 
But the evidence was against him, and when the husband 
seized an axe, the offender tore a big hole in the thatch 



and escaped. Public opinion was unfavourable and the 
villagers insulted and ridiculed Molatagula. So he took 
some of the fish poison which is, as a matter of fact, the 
resource of those who wish to leave a loop-hole in the 
suicide forced upon them. He was, in fact, saved by 
emetics, and lived in all honour and good health for some 
time afterwards. 

A more tragic story is that told in Omarakana about a 
man called Taytapola, belonging to a generation now 
passed away. He caught his wife Bulukwau'ukwa in the 
very act of adultery with Molukwayawa, a man of the 
same village. The adulterer succeeded in making his 
escape. The husband pursued him- spear in hand, but 
failing to overtake him, came back to his hut and blew the 
conch shell. His maternal kinsmen {yeyold) rallied 
round him 5 and they all repaired to the adversary's end 
of the village, where they accused the culprit and insulted 
him in front of his sub-clan. A village fight ensued, the 
two principals facing each other, each supported by his 
kinsmen. The offender was speared and died. In such 
a case, the attack was probably concentrated on him per- 
sonally, and the defence of the wrongdoer lacked the 
impetus of conviction. 

Kouta'uya, a chief of the compound village of Sinaketa, 
went on a kula expedition to Gumasila.^ One of his 
wives, Bogonela, had a lover, by name Kaukweda Guya'u. 
Both men are still alive and well known to me. The 
eldest wife of the absent chief, Pitaviyaka, was suspicious 

1 He and his sailings are familiar to readers of Argonauts of the JVest- 
em Pacific* 



of her fairer companion and watched her. Hearing a 
noise one night, she went to Bogonela's hut and found the 
two lovers together. A great scandal broke out in the 
village. The guilty wife was publicly harangued and 
insulted by the female relatives of her husband: "You 
like carnal pleasures too muchj you are too fond of male 
charms." Bogonela did as the custom and ideal of per- 
sonal honour dictated. In her best attire and adorned 
with all her valuable ornaments, she climbed a tall coconut 
palm on the central place of the village. Her little 
daughter, Kaniyaviyaka, stood under the tree and cried. 
Many people were assembled. She commended her child 
to the care of the eldest wife and jumped from the tree. 
She was killed on the spot. 

There are many such stories which prove the existence 
of strong passions and complex sentiments among the 
natives. Thus a man of Sinaketa named Gumaluya was 
married to Kutawouya, but fell in love with Ilapakuna, 
and entered into a regular liaison with her. His wife 
refused to cook for him or to bring him water, so he had 
to receive these from a married sister. One evening, at 
the time when a village is socially astir with families 
sitting over their supper or gossiping round the fire, 
Kutawouya made a scene in public, and her scolding rang 
right through the village: "You are too fond of dissi- 
pation j you are in a constant state of sexual excitement j 
you never tire of copulation" j these were fragments of 
her speech, retailed to me in a vividly coloured narrative. 
She goaded herself into a fury, and insulted the man in 
such shocking words that he also became blinded by pas- 



sion, and seized a stick and beat her into senselessness. 
Next day she committed suicide by taking the gall-bladder 
of the soka fish (a species of globe-fish), a poison which 
acts with lightning rapidity. 

Isakapu, a fine-looking young woman, virtuous and 
hard-working, was, if we are to believe the testimony of 
historical gossip, quite faithful to her husband, yet wrong- 
fully suspected by him. One day, returning home after 
a prolonged absence, he fell into a fury of jealousy 3 he 
accused and insulted her in a loud voice, and beat her 
mercilessly. She wept and lamented, crying: "I am sore 
all over, my head aches, my back aches, my buttocks ache. 
I shall climb a tree and jump down." A day or two after 
the quarrel, she adorned herself, climbed a tree and cried 
aloud to her husband: "Kabwaynaka, come here. Look 
at me as I see you. I never committed adultery. You 
beat and insulted me without reason. Now I shall kill 
myself." The husband tried to reach her in time to stop 
her, but when he was half-way up the tree, she threw 
herself down and thus ended her life. 

For some reason Bolobesa, one of the wives of Numa- 
kala, the predecessor of the present chief of Omarakana, 
left her husband for a time and returned to her own vil- 
lage, Yalumugwa. Her maternal uncle, Gumabudi, chief 
of that village, sent her back to her husband. She refused 
to go and turned back again half-way, although, I was 
told, she quite intended to return to her husband ulti- 
mately. Her uncle insisted, and insulted her so grossly 
that she committed suicide. 

In each of these cases it was open to the woman simply 



to leave her husband j or, in the last quoted incident, to 
return to him. In each, she was evidently prevented from 
adopting this easy solution by some strong attachment, or 
by amour frofre and a sense of personal honour. Death 
was preferable to life in the village where she had been 
dishonoured, preferable too to life in any other village. 
It was unbearable to live with the man, and impossible 
to live without him, a state of mind which, though it 
might seem incredible among savages whose sexual life is 
so easy and carnal, yet can exercise real influence on their 
married life. v 



We now come to the most remarkable and, one might 
say, sociologically sensational feature of Trobriand mar- 
riage. It is so important that I have already had to 
anticipate my statement of it several times. Marriage 
puts the wife's family under a permanent tributary obli- 
gation to the husband, to whom they have to pay yearly 
contributions for as long as the household exists. From 
the moment when they signify by the first gift that they 
accept the marriage, they have to produce, year after year 
by their own labour, a quantity of yams for their kins- 
woman's family. The size of the offering varies with the 
status of both partners, but covers about half the annual 
consumption in an average household. 

When, after their "honeymoon" in the boy's parental 
house, the couple set up for themselves, they have to erect 
a yam-store as well as a dwelling-hut, and the former, 



as we know, will stand in the inner ring facing the latter. 
The yam-house has a ceremonial compartment, contained 
between the beams of a square well, and into this the 
annual contribution of the wife's family is regularly 
stowed at harvest. At the same time the master of the 
new household is himself delivering a large quantity of 
yams to his own sister or female relatives. He keeps for 
himself only the inferior tubers, stowed under the thatch 
in the top compartment and in the inferior yam-houses, 
sokfimiyfa. He also produces his own seed yams and all 
other vegetables: peas, pumpkins, taro and viya. 

Thus everyone keeps back a fraction of his garden- 
yield for himself. The rest goes to his female relatives 
and their husbands. When a boy is young, his duty is 
to provide for his nearest female relative, his mother. 
Later on, he has to maintain his sister when she marries j 
or perhaps a maternal aunt, or a maternal aunt's daughter, 
if these have no nearer male kinsmen to provide for them. 

There are several types of garden, each of a different 
nature and with a different name. There are the early 
gardens, kaymugwa^ planted with mixed crops, which 
begin to yield new food after the last year's harvest has 
been exhausted. This keeps the household going until the 
new, main harvest has begun. And there is the taro 
garden, tafofu.. Both of these every family makes for 
its own use. Then there is the main garden, kaymatay 
the yield of which is chiefly devoted to the supply of the 
female relatives. All that the man produces for his own 
use is called by the generic term taytumwala; what he 



grows for his women-folk and their husbands is called 

The harvest of the main gardens inaugurates a long 
and elaborate series of activities, associated with the oflFer- 
ing of annual gifts. The members of each household — 
for digging is always done en famille — repair to their own 
garden-plot within the large, communal enclosure. The 
yams of the small variety, called taytUy which are by far 
the most important of all native vegetables, are then dug 
up by means of pointed sticks and carried to a shady 
arbour {kaUmomyo) made of poles and yam vine, where 
the family group sit down and carefully clean the dug-up 
tubers, shaking the earth from them and shaving off the 
hairs with sharpened shells. Then a selection is made. 
The best yams are placed in a large conical heap in the 
middle, and this is the urigubu yield (see pi. 27). The 
rest are stowed away in the corners in less regular and 
much smaller heaps. The main heap is constructed with 
almost geometrical precision, with the best yams carefully 
distributed all over its surface, for it will remain in the 
little shed for some time, to be admired by people from 
the village and neighbouring communities. All this part 
of the work, which, as can easily be seen, has no utili- 
tarian value, is done eagerly, with interest and con amorey 
under the stimulus of vanity and ambition. The chief 
pride of a Trobriander is to gain renown as a "master- 
gardener" {tokway-bagula) . And to achieve this, he will 
make great efforts and till many plots in order to produce 
a considerable nunAer of heaps with a large quantity of 



yams in each. It must also be remembered that the mar- 
riage gift is the chief and most ostentatious product of 
the garden work. 

In about a week or a fortnight, the taytu (small yams) 
are brought in from the gardens to the village. The 
owner then engages a number of helpers — men, women, 
and children — to carry the gift to his sister's husband, 
perhaps right at the other end of the district (pi. 28). 
These put on semi-festive dress (see pi. 61), paint their 
faces, adorn themselves with flowers and set out in a merry 
crowd J this is a time for gaiety and rejoicing. The carrier 
parties walk about all over the gardens, inspect and admire 
or criticize the crops. Perhaps a man, through special 
luck or excess of zeal in labour, has an outstandingly good 
yield, and the renown {buturd) of this has spread. Or 
there may be a famous master-gardener in the village, 
and his crops have to be viewed and compared with his 
previous achievements. Sometimes a village community, 
or several of them, agree to have a kayasa (competitive) 
harvest, and all strive td the utmost to do themselves and 
their community credit. The rivalry is so strong that in 
old days there was seldom a kayasa harvest without a war, 
or at least fights, to follow. 

The gardens have a picturesque and festive appearance 
at this time. The uprooted heaps of taytu vine litter the 
soil with large, decorative leaves, shaped like those of 
the fig or of the grape. Among them groups of people 
are seated cleaning the yams and arranging them, while 
gay parties of sightseers come and go through the welter 
of leaves. The copper-colour of their bodies, the red and 



gold of the girls' gala petticoats, the crimson of the 
hibiscus, the pale yellow pandanus, and the green of the 
garlands of trailing foliage, catching at limb or breast, 
make up a half Bacchic, half idyllic South Sea pastoral. 

After they have rested and admired the gardens, the 
crowd of carriers engaged for the occasion repair to the 
owner's plot. There the yams are dealt out and measured 
with a standard basket. For each basketful, a small petal 
is torn oflF a cycas leaf. Each tenth petal is left standing, 
to mark the tithe. For a big plot, several cycas leaves 
may have to be used. The carriers then proceed to the 
recipient's village, men and women mixing together, with 
jokes and laughter. The owner supplies them with 
dainties on the road: cocoa-drinks to quench their thirst, 
betel-nut as a stimulant, succulent bananas to refresh 
them. The village is entered at high speedy the men run 
ahead, pandanus petals streaming from their armlets, and 
the women follow closely. As they come among the 
houses, a collective litany is shouted, the fore-runner re- 
peating a series of meaningless traditional words very 
quickly at the top of his voice: ^^Bomgoyy yakakoyy 
siyaloy . . ." while the whole crowd thunder back in 
unison a loud and strident "Yah." Then in front of the 
recipient's yam-house, they build the yams into a circular 
heap, quite as fine as the one made before in the garden 
(pi. 29). It is only after a few days that the next cere- 
monial event takes place, when the vegetables are re- 
moved to the inside of the yam-house. 

Returning now to the sociological and economic im- 
portance of the annual marriage endowment, it has very 



considerable effect not only on the marriage institution 
itself, but on the whole economy and constitution o£ the 
tribe. Looked at from the point of view of the recipient, 
it is clear that every man has to guide his marital choice 
according to his needs, and to his prospective wife's en- 
dowment. For he will be dependent, not only on his 
own industry and capacity, but also on that of his rela- 
tives-in-law. A fortune-hunter will lay siege to a girl 
who is the only sister of several brothers — ^the very ex- 
istence of whom would at once cool the ardour of a Euro- 
pean with a similar end in view. Only a man who could 
face destitution with equanimity would court a girl who 
had several sisters and but a single brother. As a man's 
wife bears sons and they grow up, he acquires as it were 
home-made relatives-in-law — for in a matrilineal society 
children are naturally classed with relatives-in-law — and 
their first duty is to provide for the parental household. 
Ordinarily the husband receives the main part of his wife's 
endowment from one relative-in-law only 5 but in the case 
of a chief or a man of importance, though one man will 
nominally be responsible, many others will co-operate 
with him to provide a suitable gift. Even a commoner, 
however, receives, besides the urigubu from his chief 
donor, a number of smaller gifts named kovisi or tay- 
tufeta from his wife's other relatives. They are all 
presented at harvest time and consist of several baskets of 
yams and other vegetables. 

A man also receives from his relatives-in-law various 
services, given as occasion demands. They have to assist 
him when he builds a house or canoe, arranges for a 



fishing expedition, or takes part in one of the public fes- 
tivals. In illness, they must keep watch over him against 
sorcerers, or carry him to some other place where he hopes 
to get better. In feuds or in other emergencies he may, 
given certain circumstances, command their services. 
Finally, after his death, the bulk of mortuary duties will 
fall upon them. Only from time to time has the man to 
repay the annual services of his relatives-in-law by a gift 
of valuables — such occasional gifts being called youlo. 

The most interesting question about this institution of 
annual harvest gifts, and the most difficult to under- 
stand, is this: what are the legal, social, or psychological 
forces which impel a man to give freely and liberally 
year after year, and to strain his working power to the 
utmost in so doing? The answer is: tribal custom and 
personal pride. There are no definite punishments to 
enforce this dutyj those who neglect it merely sink in the 
public esteem and have to bear public contempt. 

A Trobriander is extremely ambitious and there are 
two points at which his ambition is specially sensitive. 
One of them is his family pride. A man's sister is his 
nearest relation, and her honour, her position and her 
dignity he identifies with his own. The other point of 
honour is concerned with food supply. Scarcity of food, 
hunger, lack of superabundance are considered very 
shameful indeed/ Thus, when it is necessary to uphold 
the honour of his family by providing his sister with 
food, a Trobriander, unless he is entirely devoid of de- 

1 For this psychology of food honour, compare Argonauts of the West' 
em Pacific, esp. ch. vi, and Crime and Custom. 



cency and morality, works with a will. When his sister's 
husband is a man of higher rank than himself, then all 
the weight of the latter's prestige is added to the stimulus 
of ambition 3 and if the husband is of a rank lower than 
himself, then the sister's status must be the more en- 
hanced. In short, the sense of what is right, the pressure 
of public opinion, and inequalities of rank in either direc- 
tion, produce strong psychological incentives which only 
in very rare and exceptional cases fail in their effect. 

From the point of view of tribal economy, this system 
of annual marriage endowment introduces extraordinary 
elements of complication: there is all the additional work 
associated with display and ceremonial offering j there is 
the sorting, cleaning, and arrangement of the heaps j there 
is the building of an arbour. In addition there is the 
work of transport, which is sometimes very considerable j 
for a man has to make his garden in the place where he 
lives and to transport the produce to his brother-in-law's 
village, perhaps six or eight miles away at the other end 
of the district. Sometimes, where the distance is excep- 
tionally great, a few hundred basketf uls of yams have to 
be carried in relays to a coastal village, transported thence 
by canoe, and afterwards carried again. It is easy to see 
the enormous amount of waste involved in all this. But 
if a benevolent white reformer, and there are, alas, many 
such at work even in the Trobriands, tried to break down 
the native system, the good would be very doubtful and 
the harm most certain. In general, the destruction of any 
tribal custom is subversive of order and morals. And 



more than this: if we examine the roundabout methods of 
native economy more closely, we see that they provide a 
powerful incentive to industrial efficiency. If he worked 
just to satisfy his own immediate wants, and had only 
the spur of directly economic considerations, the native, 
who has no means of capitalizing his surplus, would have 
no incentive to produce it. The deep-rooted motives of 
ambition, honour, and moral duty have raised him to a 
relatively high level of efficiency and organization which, 
at seasons of drought and scarcity, allows him to produce 
just enough to tide over the calamity. 

In this extraneous economic endowment of households, 
we see again the dual workings of father-right and 
matriliny. The husband is only partially the head of the 
household 3 he is also only partially its provider. His 
wife's brother, who according to tribal law remains the 
guardian of the wife and her children, has heavy economic 
duties towards the household. Thus there is an economic 
counterpart to the wife's brother's interference with 
household affairs. Or in other words, the husband, 
through his marriage, acquires an economic lien on his 
male relatives-in-law, while they, in exchange for their 
services, retain a legal authority over the wife and her 
children. This, of course, is a formulation in abstract 
terms of the state of affairs as the sociologist sees it, and 
contains no hypothesis as to the relative priority in time 
or importance of father-right and mother-right. Nor 
does it represent the point of view of the natives, who 
would be incapable of producing such an abstract formula. 




Monogamy is so much the rule among the Trobri- 
anderSj that our treatment of their marriage customs has, 
so far, assumed the existence of one wife only. In a way 
this is not misleading, since if a man has several wives, 
all that has been said refers to each union separately. 
But a few supplementary notes must be added on plurality 
of wives. Polygamy (vilayawa) is allowed by custom to 
people of higher rank or to those of great importance, 
such as, for instance, the sorcerers of renown. In certain 
cases, indeed, a man is obliged to have a great number 
of wives by virtue of his position. This is so with every 
chief, that is to say, every headman of high rank who 
exercises an over-rule in a more or less extended district. 
In order to wield his power and to fulfil the obligations 
of his position, he must possess wealth, and this in 
Trobriand social conditions is possible only through plu- 
rality of wives. 

It is a very remarkable fact in the constitution of the 
tribe of which we are speaking, that the source of power 
is principally economic, and that the chief is able to carry 
out many of his executive functions and to claim certain 
of his privileges only because he is the wealthiest man 
in the community. A chief is entitled to receive tokens of 
high respect, to command observance and require services 5 
he can ensure the participation of his subjects in war, in 
any expedition and in any festival 5 but he needs to pay 



heavily for all these things. He has to give great feasts 
and finance all enterprises by feeding the participants and 
rewarding the chief actors. Power in the Trobriands is 
essentially plutocratic. And a no less remarkable and 
unexpected feature of this system of government is that, 
although the chief needs a large revenue, there is nothing 
of the sort directly attached to his office: no substantial 
tributes are paid him by the inhabitants as from subject 
to chief. The small annual offerings or tribute in special 
dainties — ^the first fish caught, vegetable primitiae, special 
nuts and fruits — are by no means a source of revenue j 
in fact the chief has to repay them at full value. For his 
real income he has to rely entirely on his annual marriage 
contribution. This, however, in his case, is very large, 
for he has many wives, and each of them is far more 
richly dowered than if she had married a commoner. 

A statement of the specific conditions will make matters 
clearer. Each chief has a tributary district comprising 
several villages — a few dozen in the case of Kiriwinaj 
a dozen or so in Luba or Tilataulaj one or two in the 
cases of some minor chiefs — and this district is tributary 
through marriage. Each subject community renders a 
considerable contribution to the chief, but only and exclu- 
sively in the form of a dowry, paid annually in yams. 
Each village — and in the case of a compound village each 
constituent part of it — is "owned" by a sub-clan (see 
ch. i, sec. 2) and ruled by the headman of that sub-clan. 
From every one of these sub-clans the chief takes a wife 
and she is, as it were, perpetual, since on her death another 
wife, her substitute {kaymafula)^ is immediately wed to 



him from the same sub-clan. To the dowry of this one 
woman, the chosen representative of the sub-clan, all its 
male members contribute their share, though the whole is 
presented collectively by the headman. Thus every man 
in a district works for his chief, but he works for him as 
for his relative-in-law, however distant. 

The headman of Omarakana, and chief of Kiriwina, is 
supreme in rank, power, extent of influence and renown. 
His tributary grasp, now considerably restricted by white 
men and crippled by the disappearance of some villages, 
used to reach all over the northern half of the island 
and comprise about five dozen communities, villages, or 
sub-divisions of villages, which yielded him up to sixty 
wives (of whom a remnant may be seen on pi. 30). Each 
of these brought him in a substantial yearly income in 
yams. Her family had to fill one or two storehouses each 
year (pi. 31) containing roughly five to six tons of yams. 
The chief would receive from 300 to 350 tons of yams 
per annum.^ The quantity which he disposes of is cer- 
tainly sufiicient to provide enormous feasts, to pay crafts- 
men for making precious ornaments, to finance wars and 
oversea expeditions, to hire dangerous sorcerers and as- 
sassins — to do all, in short, which is expected of a person 
in power. 

Thus wealth emphatically forms the basis of power, 
though in the case of the supreme chief of Omarakana, 
it is reinforced by personal prestige, by the respect due to 

^ This rough computation was made for me by a trader who was en- 
gaged among other things in exporting yams for the mainland plantations. 
As I was unable to check it, it must be received with caution. 



his tabooed or holy character, and by his possession of 
the dreaded weather magic through which he can make 
or mar the prosperity of the whole country. The smaller 
chiefs have usually only a few villages to draw uponj the 
smallest merely the other component parts of their own 
settlement. In every case their power and status depend 
entirely on their privilege of polygamy and on the excep- 
tionally rich dowry due to a woman who marries a chief. 
This account though short and necessarily incomplete 
will yet be sufficient to indicate the enormous and mani- 
fold influence of marriage and polygamy on the consti- 
tution of power and on the whole of social organizatioa 
in the Trobriands.^ 


Turning now to the domestic aspect of polygamy, let 
us consider the steps by which a chief acquires his several 
wives. It will be best to take a specific instance j that of 
To'uluwa, for example. He began his sexual life in the 
ordinary way, passing through the stages of complete 
freedom, then of a liaison in the hukumatulay and finally 
of a permanent attachment. His first choice fell on 
Kadamwasila, of the clan of Lukwasisiga, the sub-clan 
Kwaynama of Osapola village (see pi. 4 and diag. in ch. 
iv, sec. 5). It was quite a suitable match, for this sub- 

1 1 cannot enter here more deeply into the political nature of chieftain- 
ship; I have treated the subject somewhat more fully elsewhere {Argo- 
nauts, ch. ii, sec. v, pp. 62-70). Nor can I deal in extenso with the eco- 
nomic aspect of power; this has been examined in "The Primitive Eco- 
nomics of the Trobriand Islanders," Economic Journal, March, 1921. 



clan is the very one from which a Tabalu chief ought to 
choose his principal wife. The girl must have been very 
good-looking, and she certainly was a "real lady," possess- 
ing charm, dignity, and simple honesty. The two were 
deeply attached to each other and remained soj and the 
union was blessed by five boys and a girl, the youngest 
child. I have called Kadamwasila "the chief's favourite 
wife," meaning by that that theirs was a union of love, 
a real companionship, and undoubtedly in its early years, 
a passionate relation. The chief, however, even before 
his accession, took to himself other wives, each from one 
of the communities which have to supply him with an 
annual contribution. It often happens that when a chief's 
wife dies, the community from which she came supplies 
the heir apparent, instead of the actual chief himself, 
with a girl who counts as substitute for the deceased. 
To'uluwa had become possessed of three or four wives 
of this kind, when his elder brother and predecessor died. 
Then he inherited the late chief's widows, who auto- 
matically and immediately became his wives, while their 
children became part of his household. The majority of 
the widows were fairly old, some having passed through 
the hands of three husbands. It seems that the chief 
would not have any obligation to live sexually with such 
inherited wives, but of course he could do so if he wished. 
Subsequently To'uluwa married four other wives, from 
such communities as were not represented among his com- 
plement at the time. The marriage of a chief does not 
differ from that of a commoner, except that his wife is 



brought to him by her parents openly, and that the gifts 
exchanged are more substantial. 

At present a stop is being gradually put to the whole 
system of the chief's polygamy. The first administrators, 
benevolently conceited and megalomaniacally sensitive as 
all those with arbitrary power over an "inferior" race are 
apt to be, were not guided by any sympathetic under- 
standing of native custom and institutions. They did not 
grope, but proceeded at once to hit about them in the 
dark. They tried to destroy such native power as they 
found, instead of using it and working through it. Po- 
lygamy, a practice uncongenial to a European mind and 
indeed regarded by it as a sort of gross indulgence,, 
seemed a weed proper for extirpation. So the chiefs, and 
especially he of Omarakana, though allowed to retain 
such wives as they had, were forbidden to fill the place 
left by each death, as would have been done in olden 
days. This prohibition was, by the way, an arbitrary act 
on the part of the white Resident, since it was justified 
by no law or regulation of the colony.^ Now To'uluwa's 
wealth and influence are declining, and would already 
have ceased to exist if it had not been for the faithful 
obedience of his subjects to native custom. They were 
openly encouraged to forgo payment of the annual 
gifts, and the wives were invited to leave their husband j 

1 1 am unable to say whether the Magistrate's taboo on polygamy was 
ever embodied in a definite statement or order, or only verbally given to 
the natives. But I know that chiefs and headmen have not acquired re- 
cently any new wives and that they not only allege, as a reason for this, 
a taboo from the white authorities, but they are genuinely afraid of 
defying this taboo, and also deeply resent it. 



but so far loyalty and tradition have prevailed. At the 
death of the present chief, however, a complete disor- 
ganization is sure to take place among the natives of the 
Trobriands, and is certain to be followed by a gradual 
disintegration of culture and extinction of the race.^ 

Returning to the chief's household, it is clear that his 
relations with his different wives cannot be the same. 
Three classes of these latter may be roughly distin- 

The first of these consists of wives acquired from his 
predecessor, a man much older than himself. These 
should be regarded as dowager tribute-bringers, who 
cannot be repudiated, and are living in dignity and retire- 
ment, but hardly exercise sexual allurement. Some of 
them, indeed, play an important role and enjoy a high 
degree of prestige. The eldest wife of To'uluwa, Boku- 
yoba (fourth from right on pi. 30), whom he inherited 
from his elder brother, has, though childless, a right of 
precedence in many matters, and is considered the head 
of the giyovila (chief's wives) whenever, for ceremonial 
or festival purposes or during private receptions, they act 
as a body. Next come Bomiyototo, Bomidabobu, and 
others, and there is also Namtauwa, mother of two strap- 
ping fellows, sons of the last chief, who take next place 
after To'uluwa's own sons. The chief has probably never 
actually lived sexually with these venerable relicts of the 
former regime. 

The second class of wives are those whom the chief 

1 Cf. the excellent analysis of such conditions in other parts of Mela- 
nesia in G. Pitt-Rivers's Clash of Culture, pp. 134 sq. and passim. 



married in his youth, women acquired and not inherited. 
There is usually one favourite among these: Kadamwasila 
filled this position in youth, and in her old age she was 
highly respected and had considerable influence. This 
influence was exercised directly and also indirectly through 
her sons, one of whom is the banished Namwana Guya'u. 

The third class consists of younger women, adopted in 
exchange for such older ones as have died. Some of them 
are really pretty, for the most attractive women are al- 
ways chosen for the chief. The method of choice is sim- 
ple j the chief simply indicates which of the girls pleases 
him best, and, irrespective of her previous attachments, 
she is given to him. With these younger women their 
husband unquestionably has sexual intercourse, but the 
same degree of intimacy and companionship as with the 
wives of his youth does not, as a rule, obtain. 

The latest acquisition of To'uluwa, Ilaka'ise (second 
from right on pi. 30, and on pi. 31) is one of the best- 
looking girls in the Trobriands. But the chief is seldom 
seen in her company. Isupwana (pi. 18), the eldest of 
the third class of acquisitions, really stands on the border- 
line between the second and the last category. She is the 
present favourite of the chief, and is often to be seen 
with him in the garden, or on visits, or in front of his 
personal hut. But he always used to prefer to take his 
meals at the house of Kadamwasila during her life-time, 
and — apart from his own personal hut — made it his home. 

The outward relations of the chief's wives towards 
each other are noticeably good. Nor could I discover 
from indiscreet village gossip the existence of any vio- 



lent rivalries and hatreds among them. Bokuyoba, the 
oldest wife, who, as has been said, enjoyed a privileged 
position among them, is undoubtedly popular and liked 
by them all. She is also supposed to keep an eye on their 
morals, a somewhat invidious task which always falls to 
the oldest wife. It will be remembered that Pitaviyaka, 
the first wife of Kouta'uya, one of the chiefs of Sinaketa, 
actually discovered an act of adultery among her col- 
leagues, a discovery which, as we have seen, ended so 
tragically in the suicide of the guilty one. In Omarakana, 
however, the first wife is less of a Mrs. Grundy. 

Scandal reports many breaches of marital fidelity 
among To'uluwa's wives, especially and naturally on the 
part of the youngest ones. The point on which village 
gossip centres its most eager and malicious interest is the 
fact that several of the most prominent sons of the chief 
himself are among the adulterers. Of course, this rela- 
tion has not the same incestuous flavour as it would pos- 
sess for us, since the bodily tie between father and son is 
not recognized 5 but it is bad enough to scandalize the na- 
tives, or rather to arouse their interest by its piquancy. 
Ilaka'ise, the youngest wife, a girl of not more than 
twenty-five and, with her tall figure, soft and well-de- 
veloped contour, and shapely face, a model of Melane- 
sian beauty, has a permanent intrigue with Yobukwa'u. 
He is the third son of To'uluwa and Kadamwasila, and 
one of the finest-looking, best-mannered, and really 
most satisfactory fellows of my acquaintance. As the 
reader may remember, he has recently married a girl who 
is not his equal either in character or in personal charm 



(see ch. iv, sec. i). His friends smiled at the suggestion 
that his marriage might mean a rupture with Ilaka'ise. 

Isupwana, the chief's favourite of his younger wives 
and a woman who has the air of a stately yet comely 
matron, is enamoured, among others, of Yabugibogi, a 
young son of the chief. This youth, though good- 
looking enough and endowed, according to the scandal- 
mongers, with great attractions for a jaded feminine 
taste, is perhaps the most obnoxious waster in the whole 

Namwana Guya'u, the eldest son of Kadamwasila and 
his father's favourite, does not consider this fact a suffi- 
cient reason for being more abstemious than his brothers. 
He has chosen Bomawise for his mistress, the least at- 
tractive of the few younger wives of his father. Both 
before his marriage and after it, he lived in a faithful 
though incestuous relation with her, which only ended 
with his banishment. 

The greatest scandal of all was caused by Gilayviyaka, 
the second son of Kadamwasila, a fine and intelligent 
native, who died soon after my first departure from the 
Trobriands. Unfortunately for himself, he married a 
very attractive girl, Bulubwaloga, who seems to have been 
passionately fond and very jealous of him. Before his 
marriage, he had an intrigue with Nabwoyuma, one of 
his father's wives, and did not break it off after the wed- 
ding. His wife suspected and spied upon him. One 
night, the guilty couple were caught in 'flagrante delicto 
in Nabwoyuma's own hut by the adulterer's wife. The 
alarm was given, and a dreadful public scandal ensued. 



The outraged wife left the village immediately. A great 
social upheaval took place in Omarakana, and a perma- 
nent estrangement ensued between the father and son. 
For, though the chief probably knows a good deal of 
what goes on and condones it, once a scandal becomes 
public, custom demands the punishment of the offenders. 
In olden days they would have been speared, or destroyed 
by sorcery or poison. Now that the chief's power is para- 
lysed, nothing so drastic can happen 5 but Gilayviyaka had 
to leave the village for some time, and after his return 
was always under a cloud. His wife never returned to 
him. The chief's wife remained with a stain on her char- 
acter, and in great disfavour with her husband. 

I heard many other items of scandalous gossip which 
space forbids me to retail. It is sufficient to say that the 
behaviour of the eldest sons of Kadamwasila is typical. 
The chief's other male children seem to have no such 
permanent intrigues with special wives, but they are not 
held in greater public esteem because of that, since they 
are known to take any opportunity of a temporary affair 
with any one of their father's wives. Nowadays, when 
the law and the moral pretence of the white rule have 
done much to rot away the real morality and sense of 
what is right among the natives, all these inter-family 
adulteries are committed much more openly and shame- 
lessly. But, even in the old days, as some of my more 
ancient informants told me with a reminiscent smile, the 
young wives of an old chief would never suffer a sad lot 
in resignation, and would always seek comfort, with dis- 



cretion, but not without success. Polygamy in the Tro~ 
briands was never a cruel and inhuman institution. 

In this chapter we have discussed marriage in its do- 
mestic aspect, and in the aspect of the economic and legal 
obligations which it imposes on the wife's family with 
regard to the household. Finally we have discussed the 
effect on public and political life which it exerts through 
the fact of the chief's polygamy. In the next chapter we 
shall see what light is thrown on marriage in the Tro- 
briands by the modes of its dissolution through divorce 
and death. 




The nature of matrimonial bonds reveals itself in their 
breaking in life by divorce, as it does also in their disso- 
lution by death. In the first instance we can observe the 
strain to which they are submitted j we can see where they 
are strong enough to resist and where they most easily 
yield. In the second we can estimate the strength of the 
social ties and the depth of personal sorrow by their ex- 
pression in the ceremonial of mourning and burial. 


Divorce, called by the natives vaypaka (yay = mar- 
riage 5 faka^ from faykiy to refuse), is not infrequent. 
Whenever husband and wife disagree too acutely, or 
whenever bitter quarrels or fierce jealousy makes them 
chafe too violently at the bond between them, this can 
be dissolved — provided the emotional situation does not 
lead instead to a more tragic issue (see sec. 2 of the pre-» 
vious chapter). We have seen why this solution, or 
rather dissolution, of the difiiculty is a weapon used by 
the woman rather than the man. A husband very seldom 
repudiates his wife, though in principle he is entitled to 



do so. For adultery, he has the right to kill her 5 but the 
usual punishment is a thrashing, or perhaps merely re- 
monstrance or a fit of the sulks. If he has any other se- 
rious grievance against her, such as bad temper or laziness, 
the husband, who is little hampered by marriage ties, 
easily finds consolation outside his household, while he 
still benefits by the marriage tribute from his wife's 

There are, on the other hand, several instances on rec- 
ord of a woman leaving her husband because of ill-treat- 
ment or infidelity on his part, or else because she had 
become enamoured of someone else. Thus, to take a 
case already described, when Bulubwaloga caught her 
husband, Gilayviyaka, m flagrante delicto with his father's 
wife, she left him and returned to her family (see ch. v, 
sec. 5). Again, a woman married to Gomaya, the ne'er- 
do-well successor to one of the petty chiefs of Sinaketa, 
left him because, in his own words, she found him an 
adulterer and also "very lazy." Bolobesa, the wife of the 
previous chief of Omarakana, left him because she was 
dissatisfied or jealous, or just tired of him (ch. v, sec. 2). 
Dabugera, the grand-niece of the present chief, left her 
first husband because she discovered his infidelities and 
found him, moreover, not to her taste. Her mother, 
Ibo'una, the chief's grand-niece, took as a second husband 
one Iluwaka'i, a man of Kavataria and at that time inter- 
preter to the resident magistrate. When he lost his po- 
sition she abandoned him, not only, we may presume, 
because he was less good-looking without his uniform, but 
also because power attracts the fair sex in the Trobriands 



as elsewhere. These two ladies of rank display an exact- 
ing taste in husbands, and indeed the fickleness of those 
privileged by birth has become proverbial in the Tro- 
briands: "She likes the phallus as a woman of guya^u 
(chief) rank does." 

But among people of lower rank, also, there are many 
instances of a woman leaving her husband simply be- 
cause she does not like him. During my first visit to the 
Trobriands, Sayabiya, a fine-looking girl, bubbling over 
with health, vitality, and temperament, was quite happily 
married to Tomeda, who was a handsome, good-natured 
and honest, but stupid man. When I returned, she had 
.gone back to live in her village as an unmarried girl, 
simply because she was tired of her husband. A very 
good-looking girl of Oburaku, Bo'usari, had left two 
husbands, one after the other, and, to judge from her 
intrigues, was looking for a third. Neither from her, 
nor from the intimate gossip of the village, could I get 
any good reason for her two desertions, and it was ob- 
vious that she simply wanted to be free again. 

Sometimes extraneous conditions, more especially quar- 
rels between the husband and the wife's family, lead to 
divorce. Thus as one result of the quarrel between 
Namwana Guya'u and Mitakata, Orayayse, Mitakata's 
wife, had to leave her husband because she belonged to 
iiis enemy's family. In a dispute between two communi- 
ties, marriages are often dissolved for the same reason. 

An interesting case of matrimonial misfortune which 
Jed to divorce is that of Bagido'u, the heir apparent of 
Omarakana (pi. 64). His first wife and her son died, 



and he then married Dakiya, an extremely attractive 
woman who bore traces of her good looks even at the 
somewhat mature age at which I first saw her. Dakiya's 
younger sister Kamwalila was married to Manimuwa, a 
renowned sorcerer of Wakayse. Kamwalila sickened, and 
her sister Dakiya went to nurse her. Then between her 
and her sister's husband evil things began. He made 
love magic over her. Her mind was influenced, and they 
committed adultery then and there. When, after her 
sister's death, Dakiya returned to her husband Bagido'u, 
matters were not as before. He found his food tough, 
his water brackish, the coconut drinks bitter, and the betel 
nut without a bite in it. He would also discover small 
stones and bits of wood in his lime pot, twigs lying about 
in the road where he used to pass, pieces of foreign mat- 
ter in his food. He sickened and grew worse and worse, 
for all these substances were, of course, vehicles of evil 
magic, performed by his enemy, the sorcerer Manimuwa, 
assisted in this by the faithless wife. In the meantime, 
his wife trysted with her leman. 

Bagido'u scolded and threatened her until one day she 
ran away and went to live with Manimuwa, an altogether 
irregular procedure. The power of the chiefs being now 
only a shadow, Bagido'u could not use special force to 
bring her back 5 so he took another wife — a broad-faced, 
sluggish, and somewhat cantankerous person by the name 
of Dagiribu'a. Dakiya remained with her wizard lover, 
and married him. The unfortunate Bagido'u who obvi- 
ously suffers from consumption, a disease with which all 
his family are more or less tainted, attributes his ills to 



his successful rival's sorcery, even now, as he believes, 
active against him. This is very galling, for he has the 
injury of black magic added to the insult of his wife's 
seduction. When I came back to Omarakana in 191 8, I 
found my friend Bagido'u much worse. By now (1928), 
this man of extraordinary intelligence, good manners, 
and astounding memory, the last worthy depository of 
the family tradition of the Tabalu, is no doubt dead. 

The formalities of divorce are as simple as those by 
which marriage is contracted. The woman leaves her 
husband's house with all her personal belongings, and 
moves to her mother's hut, or to that of her nearest ma- 
ternal kinswoman. There she remains, awaiting the 
course of events, and in the meantime enjoying full 
sexual freedom. Her husband, as likely as not, will try 
to get her back. He will send certain friends with 
"peace offerings" {koluluvly or lula) for the wife and for 
those with whom she is staying. Sometimes the gifts 
are rejected at first, and then the ambassadors are sent 
again and again. If the woman accepts them, she has to 
return to her husband, divorce is ended and marriage re- 
sumed. If she means business, and is determined not to 
go back to her wedded life, the presents are never ac- 
cepted j then the husband has to adjust himself as best 
he may, which means that he begins to look for another 
girl. The dissolution of marriage entails in no case the 
restitution of any of the inaugural marriage gifts ex- 
changed, unless, as we shall see, the divorced woman 
should remarry. 

The girl, if she is still young enough, now resumes 
her prenuptial life and leads the free, untrammelled 



existence of a nakubukwabuya (unmarried girl), entering 
upon liaison after liaison, and living in bachelors' houses. 
jOne of the liaisons may lengthen out and develop into a 
new marriage. Then the new husband must present a 
valuable object {yaygu^a) to his predecessor, in recom- 
pense for the one given to the wife's family at the begin- 
ning of the first marriage. The new husband must also 
give another vaygu^a to his wife's relatives, and he then 
receives from them the first annual harvest gift — vila- 
kurm — and the subsequent yearly tribute in yams. It 
seemed to me that a divorcee was much more independ- 
ent of family interference in choosing her new husband 
than an ordinary unmarried girl. The initial gifts of 
food {fefe^iy etc.) are not given in the case of such a 
remarriage. There is, apparently, no social stigma on a 
girl or a man who has been married and divorced, al- 
though as a matter of amour frofre no one wishes to 
own that he or she has been abandoned by the other. 

It goes without saying that the children, in case of di- 
vorce, always follow their mother 3 and this is no doubt 
another reason why divorce is less popular with men than 
with women. During the interim, when their mother is 
living as a spinster, they remain in the household of her 
nearest married maternal relative. 


When a man dies, his wife is not set free by the event. 
It may be said without paradox that, in a way, the strictest 
and heaviest shackles of marriage are laid on her after 



the real tie has been dissolved by death. Custom com- 
pels her to play the burdensome role of chief mourner 5 
to make an ostentatious, dramatic, and extremely onerous 
display of grief for her husband from the moment of his 
demise until months, at times years, afterwards. She has 
to fulfil her part under the vigilant eyes of the public, 
jealous of exact compliance with traditional morals, and 
under the more suspicious surveillance of the dead man's 
kindred, who regard it as a special and grievous offence 
to their family's honour if she flags for a single moment 
in her duty. The same applies in a smaller degree to a 
widower, but in his case the mourning is less elaborate 
and burdensome, and the vigilance not so relentless. 

The ritual in the early stages of widowhood reveals in 
a direct and intimate manner a most interesting complex 
of ideas — some very crude and quaint — concerning kin- 
ship, the nature of marriage, and the purely social ties 
between father and children. The whole mortuary ritual 
is, in fact, perhaps the most difficult and bewildering 
aspect of Trobriand culture for the investigating sociolo- 
gist. In the overgrowth of ceremonial, in the inextricable 
maze of obligations and counter-obligations, stretching 
out into a long series of ritual acts, there is to be found 
a whole world of conceptions — social, moral, and mytho- 
logical — the majority of which struck me as quite unex- 
pected and difficult to reconcile with the generally accepted 
views of the human attitude towards death and mourning. 

Throughout this ritual, the unfortunate remains of the 
man are constantly worried. His body is twice exhumed 5 
it is cut up 5 some of its bones are peeled out of the car- 



cass, are handled, are given to one party and then to 
another, until at last they come to a final rest. And what 
makes the whole performance most disconcerting is the 
absence of the real protagonist — Hamlet without the 
Prince of Denmark. For the spirit of the dead man 
knows nothing about all that happens to his body and 
bones, and cares less, since he is already leading a happy 
existence in Tuma, the netherworld, having breathed of 
the magic of oblivion and formed new ties (see ch. xii, 
sec. 5). The ritual performances at his twice-opened 
grave and over his buried remains, and all that is done 
with his relics, are merely a social game, where the various 
groupings into which the community has re-crystallized 
at his death play against each other. This, I must add 
with great emphasis, represents the actual contemporary 
view of the natives, and contains no hypothetical refer- 
ence to the origins or past history of this institution. 
Whether the dead man always had his spiritual back 
turned on the Trobriand mortuary ritual, or whether his 
spirit has gradually evaporated from it — it is not for the 
field-worker to decide. In this context we shall have to 
confine ourselves to the study of mortuary practices in 
their barest outline only. A complete account of them 
would easily fill a volume of the present size. We shall, 
therefore, select such features as throw light on the ties 
of marriage, and on the ideas of kinship and relationship 5 
and even this will have to be done in a somewhat sche- 
matic and simplified form.^ 

1 Compare the brief account of these ceremonies among the Northern 
Massim, by Professor C. G. Seligman, The Melanesians .of British Neio 



Let us take the death of a man of consequence in the 
fulness of age, leaving behind a widow, several children 
and brothers. From the moment of his death, the dis- 
tinction between his real, that is matrilineal, kinsmen 
iyeyola) on the one hand, and his children, relatives-in- 
law and friends on the other, takes on a sharp and even 
an outwardly visible form. The kinsmen of the deceased 
fall under a taboo 3 they must keep aloof from the corpse. 
They are not allowed either to wash or adorn or fondle 
or bury it 5 for if they were to touch or to come near it, 
pernicious influences from the body would attack them 
and cause their disease and death. These pernicious in- 
fluences are conceived in the form of a material exhala- 
tion, issuing from the corpse and polluting the air. It is 
called bwauloy a word which also designates the cloud of 
smoke which surrounds a village especially on steamy, 
calm days. The necrogenic hwauloy invisible to common 
eyes, appears to a witch or sorcerer as a black cloud 
shrouding the village. It is innocuous to strangers, but 
dangerous to kinsmen (ch. xiii, sec. i). 

The kindred must also not display any outward signs 
of mourning in costume and ornamentation, though they 
need not conceal their grief and may show it by weeping. 
Here the underlying idea is that the maternal kinsmen 
{yeyola) are hit in their own persons 5 that each one suf- 
fers because the whole sub-clan to which they belong has 
been maimed by the loss of one of its members. "As if 
a limb were cut off, or a branch lopped from a tree." 
Thus, though they need not hide their grief, they must 
not parade it. This abstention from outward mourning 



extends, not only to all the members of the sub-clan be- 
yond the real kinsmen, but to all the members of the clan 
to which the dead man belonged. On the other hand, 
the taboo against touching the corpse applies primarily to 
the members of the sub-clan and especially to the actual 
kinsmen, to whom, of course, the temptation to touch the 
corpse, as an expression of love, would be strongest. 

Quite different, in the native idea, is the relation of the 
widow, and of the children and relatives-in-law, to the 
dead and to his corpse. They ought, according to the 
moral code, to suffer and to feel bereaved. But in feeling 
thus they are not suffering directly j they are not griev- 
ing for a loss which affects their own sub-clan (dala) and 
therefore their own persons. Their grief is not sponta- 
neous like that of the veyola (maternal kinsmen), but a 
duty almost artificial, springing as it does from acquired 
obligations. Therefore they must ostentatiously express 
their grief, display it, and bear witness to it by outward 
signs. If they did not, they would offend the surviving 
members of the dead man's sub-clan. Thus an interest- 
ing situation develops, giving rise to a most strange spec- 
tacle: a few hours after the death of a notable, the vil- 
lage is thronged by people, with their heads shaven, the 
whole body thickly smeared with soot, and howling like 
demons in despair. And these are the non-kinsmen of the 
dead man, the people not actually bereaved. In contrast to 
these a number of others are to be seen in their usual at- 
tire, outwardly calm and behaving as if nothing had hap- 
pened. These represent the sub-clan and clan of the de- 
ceased, and are the actually bereaved. Thus by a devious 



reasoning, tradition and custom produce the reverse of 
what would seem natural and obvious to us or any ob- 
server from almost any other culture. 

Among those who display their grief, it is easy to dis- 
tinguish several groups and grades. There is the rank 
and file of mourners, comprising all the people belonging 
to the remaining three clans j for, when a notable dies, 
everyone in the village community puts on mourning, 
except the members of his own clan. A small group is 
busy about the body and the grave 3 this consists of the 
male children and brothers-in-law of the deceased. Near- 
est to the corpse and plunged most deeply in the mimicry 
of grief are seated a few women, among whom one, the 
widow, is conspicuous, supported by her daughters and 
sisters. In this group, and it may be in that of the sons 
also, an observer well acquainted with these natives would 
be able to distinguish an interesting interplay of feigned 
and merely histrionic grief with real and heartfelt sorrow. 


With this sociological scheme before us, we can now 
follow the sequence of event and ritual which begins 
automatically with a man's death. When death is seen 
to be approaching, the wife and children, kinsmen and 
relatives-in-law crowd round the bed, filling the small 
hut to overflowing. The consummation of death is 
-marked by a frantic outburst of wailing. The widow, 



who generally stands at the head of the dying man, ut- 
ters the first piercing shriek, to which immediately other 
women respond, till the village is filled with the strange 
harmonies of the melodious dirge. From this moment 
all the varied activities of the days, and even weeks, 
which follow will be carried on to the choral accompani- 
ment of a long-drawn wail which never stops for one 
instant. At times it swells up in violent and discordant 
gusts 3 then ebbs again into soft, melodious strains, mu- 
sically well expressing sorrow. To me, this powerful 
uneven stream of sound, flowing over the village and 
enveloping as it were all these human beings in a feeble, 
imbecile protest against death, became symbolic of all 
that was deeply human and real in the otherwise stifF, 
conventional, incomprehensible ritual of mourning. 

First the corpse is washed, anointed, and covered with 
ornaments (pis. 32 and 33), then the bodily apertures 
are filled with coconut husk fibre, the legs tied together, 
and the arms bound to the sides. Thus prepared, it is 
placed on the knees of a row of women who sit on the 
floor of the hut, with the widow or widower at one end 
holding the head.^ They fondle the corpse, stroke the 
skin with caressing hands, press valuable objects against 
chest and abdomen, move the limbs slightly and agitate 
the head. The body is thus made to move and twist with 
slow and ghastly gestures to the rhythm of the incessant 
wailing. The hut is full of mourners, all intoning the 
melodious lamentation. Tears flow from their eyes and 

1 Cf. pi. Ixv in Argonauts of the Western Pacific, where this act is re- 
constructed outside the hut for purposes of photography and the widow 
is replaced by the son. 



mucus from their noses, and all the liquids of grief 
are carefully displayed and smeared over their bodies 
or otherwise conspicuously disposed. Outside, certain 
women, usually relatives-in-law of the dead man, per- 
form a slow rhythmic dance (the vaysalt) with relics in 
their hands (pi. ii). 

The sons in the meantime dig the grave, which in olden 
days was always on the central place of the village, but 
which now, by the white man's decree, must be on the 
outskirts. A few hours after death the body is laid in it, 
wrapped in mats, and is covered with logs, which leave a 
shallow space above. On this layer of logs the widow 
lies down to keep vigil over the corpse. Her daughter 
may be beside her j round the brink of the grave are her 
sisters, kinswomen and friends, and the other relatives- 
in-law of the dead man. As night draws on, the central 
place fills with people j for even nowadays the white 
man's regulations against burial in the baku are circum- 
vented by making a temporary grave there, or placing the 
corpse on the ground. Here the mourners, the kinsmen, 
all the villagers and many guests from far afield congre- 
gate to hold a most remarkable wake {yawali). 

The chief mourners and kinsmen in appropriate groups 
keep the central position round the grave. Outside this 
inner ring, the villagers and guests are seated, each com- 
munity in a separate body, their mood and behaviour be- 
coming less tragic as they are farther removed from the 
corpse, until on the outskirts of the crowd, we find people 
in animated conversation, eating and chewing betel nut. 
The central group of mourners intones the deep wail of 



sorrow, the others sing songs, and, as the night goes on, 
people will stand up and recite fragments of magic in 
honour of the departed, chanting them over the heads of 
the crowd. 

The body is not allowed to remain long in peace — if 
the weird, noisy, and discordant din of singing, wailing, 
and haranguing can be so described. On the following 
evening, the body is exhumed, and inspected for signs of 
sorcery (see pi. 33). Such an inspection yields most im- 
portant clues, as to who caused the death by witchcraft 
and for what motive this was done. I have assisted at 
this ceremony several times 5 the photograph for plate 33 
was taken during the first exhumation of Ineykoya, wife 
of Toyodala, my best informant in Oburaku.^ 

Before daybreak after the first exhumation, the body 
is taken out of the grave, and some of the bones are re- 
moved from it. This anatomical operation is done by the 
man's sons, who keep some of the bones as relics and dis- 
tribute the others to certain of their relatives. This prac- 
tice has been strictly forbidden by the Government — 
another instance of the sacrifice of most sacred religious 
custom to the prejudice and moral susceptibilities of the 
"civilized" white. Yet the Trobrianders are so deeply 
attached to this custom that it is still clandestinely per- 
formed, and I have seen the jaw-bone of a man with 
whom I had spoken a few days before dangling from the 
neck of his widow (see pis. 34, 25y and 2^^). 

The excision of the bones and their subsequent use as 

1 For further information about the signs of sorcery, see Crime and 
Custom, pp. 87-91. 



relics is an act of piety 5 the process of detaching them 
from the putrefying corpse, a heavy, repugnant, and dis- 
gusting duty. The sons of the deceased are expected by 
custom to curb and conceal their disgust, and to suck some 
of the decaying matter when they are cleaning the bones. 
Speaking with virtuous pride they will say: "I have sucked 
the radius bone of my father 5 I had to go away and 
vomit 3 I came back and went on." After they have 
cleansed the bones, which is always done on the seashore, 
they return to the village, and the dead man's kinswomen 
ceremonially "wash their mouths" by giving them food 
and purify their hands with coconut oil. The bones are 
converted to various purposes, serviceable and ornamental : 
the skull is made into a lime pot to be used by the widow 5 
the jaw-bone is turned into a neck ornament to hang on 
her breast 5 the radius, ulna, tibia, and some other bones 
are carved into lime spatulas to be used with betel and 
areca nut. 

A curious mixed sentiment underlies this complex of 
customs. On the one hand, it should be the wish of the 
widow and children to keep a part of the beloved dead. 
"The relic {kayvaluha) brings the departed back to our 
mind and makes our inside tender." On the other hand, 
the use of these relics is regarded as a harsh and un- 
pleasant duty, as a sort of pious repayment for all the 
benefits received from the father. As it was explained 
to me: "Our mind is grieved for the man who has fed 
us, who has given us dainties to eat 5 we suck his bones 
as lime spatulse." Or again: "It is right that a child 
should suck the father's ulna. For the father has held 



out his hand to its excrement and allowed it to make 
water on to his knee" (compare similar locutions quoted 
in section 3 of chapter i). Thus the use of relics is at 
the same time a relief to the bereaved widow and chil- 
dren, and an act of filial piety which must be rigorously- 

To the dead man's maternal kinsmen (veyola) the use 
of his bones is strictly tabooed. If they broke this taboo 
they would fall ill, their bellies would swell and they 
might die. The contact is most dangerous when the bone 
is still wet with the dead man's bodily juices. When, 
after a few years, the bones are handed over to the kins- 
men, they are presented carefully wrapped in dry leaves, 
and are then only gingerly handled by them. They are 
finally deposited on rocky shelves overlooking the sea. 
Thus the bones pass several times from hand to hand be- 
fore they come to their final rest. 

More distant relatives-in-law and friends of the dead 
man have his nails, teeth and hair, which they make into 
all sorts of mourning ornaments and wear as relics. The 
dead man's personal possessions are used in the same way, 
and nowadays, when the bodily relics have frequently to 
be concealed, this practice is very much in favour (see 

After the second exhumation the body is buried, the 
wake is over, and the people disperse 5 but the widow, 
who, during all this time, has not stirred from her hus- 
band's side, nor eaten nor drunk nor stopped in her wail- 
ing, is not yet released. Instead she moves into a small 
cage, built within her house, where she will remain for 



months together, observing the strictest taboos. She must 
not leave the place j she may only speak in whispers j she 
must not touch food or drink with her own hands, but 
wait till they are put into her mouth j she remains closed 
up in the dark, without fresh air or light 5 her body is 
thickly smeared over with soot and grease, which will not 
be washed oflF for a long time. She satisfies all the neces- 
sities of life indoors, and the excreta have to be carried 
out by her relatives. Thus she lives for months shut up 
in a low-roofed, stuflFy, pitch-dark space, so small that 
with outstretched hands she can almost touch the walls 
on either sidej it is often filled with people who assist or 
comfort her, and pervaded by an indescribable atmosphere 
of human exhalations, accumulated bodily filth, stale 
food, and smoke. Also she is under the more or less 
active control and surveillance of her husband's matri- 
lineal relatives, who regard her mourning and its inherent 
privations as their due. When the term of her widow- 
hood has almost run its course — ^its length depends upon 
the status of her husband and varies from about six 
months to two years — she is gradually released by the 
dead man's kinsmen. Food is put into her mouth accord- 
ing to a ritual which gives her permission to eat with her 
own hands. Then, ceremonially, she is allowed to speak j 
finally she is released from the taboo of confinement and, 
still with appropriate ritual, requested to walk forth. At 
the ceremony of her complete release by the female 
veyola of the dead man, the widow is washed and 
anointed, and dressed in a new gaudy grass skirt in three 
colours. This makes her marriageable again. 




Throughout the rigorous ritual of mourning, in which 
the widow, the orphans, and to a much lesser degree the 
other relatives-in-law of the deceased are caught and held 
as in a vise, we can observe the working of certain ideas 
belonging to the tribal tradition of the Trobrianders. 
One especially, the taboo on maternal kinsmen, which 
forces them to keep aloof since it is both dangerous to 
approach the corpse and superfluous to show grief, is 
strikingly visible throughout the whole course of burial, 
exhumation, and grave-tending. The corresponding idea, 
that it is the imperative duty of the widow and her rela- 
tives to show grief and perform all the mortuary services, 
emphasizes the strength and the permanence of marriage 
bonds as viewed by tradition. It is also a posthumous 
continuation of the remarkable system of services which 
have to be given to a married man by his wife's family, 
including the woman herself and her children. 

In the mortuary phase of these services, however, the 
dead man's sub-clan have to render payment more strictly 
and more frequently than he had to do in his life-time. 
Immediately after the bones have been cut out and the 
remains buried, the dead man's sub-clan organize the first 
big distribution of food and valuables, in which the widow, 
children, and other relatives-in-law, as well as the unre- 
lated mourners, are richly paid for the various services 
rendered in tending the corpse and digging the grave. 



Other distributions follow at stated intervals. There is 
one expressly for women mourners 5 one for the tenders 
of the grave j one for the rank and file of mourners j one, 
by far the largest, in which presents of valuables and enor- 
mous quantities of food are given to the widow and chil- 
dren, in so far as they, in grief and piety, have used the 
bones of the dead man for their lime-chewing or as orna- 
ments. This intricate series of distributions stretches out 
into years, and it entails a veritable tangle of obligations 
and duties 3 for the members of the deceased's sub-clan 
must provide food and give it to the chief organizer, the 
headman of the sub-clan, who collects it and then dis- 
tributes it to the proper beneficiaries. These, in their 
turn, partially at least, re-distribute it. And each gift in 
this enormous complex trails its own wake of counter- 
gifts and obligations to be fulfilled at a future date. 

The ostentation with which the widow and children 
have to display their grief, the thickness — ^literally and 
metaphorically speaking — with which they put on their 
mourning are indeed striking 3 and the underlying com- 
plex psychology of these things must have become ap- 
parent in the above account. In the first place, it is a 
duty towards the dead and towards his sub-clan, a duty 
strongly enjoined by the code of morals and guarded by 
public opinion, as well as by the kinsmen. "Our tears — 
they are for the kinsmen of our father to see," as one of 
the mourners simply and directly told me. In the second 
place, it demonstrates to the world at large that the wife 
and children were really good to the dead and that they 
took great care of him in his illness. Lastly, and this is 



very important, it allays any suspicion of their complicity 
in his murder by black magic. To understand the last 
queer motive, one has to realize the extreme fear, the 
ever-vigilant suspicion of sorcery, and the unusual lack 
of trust in anyone at all with reference to it. The Tro- 
brianders, in common with all races at their culture level, 
regard every death without exception as an act of sorcery, 
unless it is caused by suicide or by a visible accident, such 
as poisoning or a spear thrust. It is characteristic of their 
idea of the bonds of marriage and fatherhood — ^which 
they regard as artificial and untrustworthy under any 
strain — that the principal suspicion of sorcery attaches al- 
ways to the wife and children. The real interest in a 
man's welfare, the real affection, the natural innocence of 
any attempt against him are, by the traditional system of 
ideas, attributed to his maternal kinsmen. His wife and 
children are mere strangers, and custom persists in ignor- 
ing any real identity of interest between them.^ 

How utterly this traditional view is generally at vari- 
ance with the economic and psychological reality, has 
been shown, and illustrated by many facts in chapter i, 
sections i and 2. For, apart from the personal attach- 
ment which always exists between husband and wife, 
father and children, it is clear that a man's children lose 
more at his death than do his kinsmen, who, as his heirs, 
always gain materially, especially in the case of a man of 
wealth, rank, and importance. And, in reality, the actual 

1 Even this is a simplified account, one in which the ideal of native law 
and tradition is emphasized, as is always done by the natives themselves. 
The full account of native ideas about sorcery in relation to kinship and 
relationship by marriage will have to be postponed to a later publication. 



feelings of the survivors run their natural course inde- 
pendently of the mimic and official display of grief. The 
existence of an individual reality of thought, sentiment, 
and impulse, unfolding itself side by side with the con- 
ventional sentiment and idea contained in and imposed by 
a traditional pattern, is one of the most important sub- 
jects of social psychology — a subject on which we need 
more material from ethnological investigation, carried 
on with a good deal of detail and based upon personal 
knowledge of the savages observed. 

In the Trobriands, the genuine sorrow of the widow 
and children is blurred, overlaid, and made almost un- 
recognizable by the histrionic display of grief. But their 
real feelings can be gauged by observing their behaviour 
at other times, especially under critical conditions. I 
have seen more than one case of a husband sitting night 
after night at his sick wife's bedside. I have seen his 
Jiopes surge and ebb, and unmistakable, even deep, de- 
spair set in as the apparent chances of survival waned. 
Differences are clearly distinguishable in the sorrow of 
■widows and widowers, some merely conforming to cus- 
tom, others genuinely grieving. To'uluwa, the chief, 
though a rather selfish and shallow character, could not 
•speak about the death of Kadamwasila, his favourite wife, 
without visible and real emotion. Toyodala, the nicest 
man I knew in Oburaku (see pi. 2^2)7 was for weeks anx- 
iously watching his wife's illness, and hoping for her re- 
covery. When she died, he behaved at first like a mad- 
man, and then, during his mourning confinement, in 
which I often visited him, he wept so bitterly that his 



eyesight suffered. There is no doubt at all that the 
kinsmen feel the personal loss much less. On the other 
hand, their conventional sentiment of bereavement and 
realization of the maiming of their group do not leave 
them unaffected. But here we enter upon a problem, 
that of feelings and ideas relating to the solidarity of the 
clan, which, if followed up, would take us too far away 
from our subject. 

The study of marriage has led us away from the study 
of sex in the narrower sense of the word. We have had 
to consider questions of social organization, and the legal, 
economic, and religious setting of the relation between 
husband and wife, parents and children. This last sub- 
ject, parenthood, will still occupy us in the next two 
chapters, before we pass to the detailed analysis of the 
sexual impulse in its cultural manifestations among our 




The dependence o£ social organization in a given society 
upon the ideas, beliefs, and sentiments current there is of 
primary importance to the anthropologist. Among sav- 
age races we often find unexpected and fantastic views 
about natural processes, and correspondingly extreme and 
one-sided developments of social organization as regards 
kinship, communal authority, and tribal constitution. In 
this chapter I shall give an account of the Trobrianders' 
idea of the human organism as it affects their beliefs about 
procreation and gestation, beliefs which are embodied in 
oral tradition, customs, and ceremonies, and which exer- 
cise a deep influence on the social facts of kinship and on 
the matrilineal constitution of the tribe. 


The natives have a practical acquaintance with the 
main features of the human anatomy, and an extensive 
vocabulary for the various parts of the human body and 
for the internal organs. They often cut up pigs and 
other animals, while the custom of fost mortem dissec- 



tion of corpses, and visits among their overseas cannibal 
neighbours supply them with an exact knowledge of the 
homologies of the human and animal organism. Their 
physiological theories, on the other hand, are remarkably 
defective 3 there are many notable gaps in their knowledge 
about the functions of the most important organs, side 
by side with some fantastic and strange ideas. 

Their understanding of sexual anatomy is, on the 
whole, limited in comparison with what they know about 
other parts of the human body. Considering the great 
interest which they take in this matter, the distinctions 
which they make are superficial and rough, and their 
terminology meagre. They distinguish and name the 
following parts: vagina {wila)^ clitoris {kasesa)^ penis 
{kwila)y testes {fuwala). They have no words to de- 
scribe the mons veneris as a whole, nor the labia major a 
and minora. The glans fenis they describe as the "point" 
of the penis {matala kwila) and the prepuce as the skin 
of the penis {kanivinela kwila). The internal female 
organs are called generically bam^ and this comprises the 
uterus and the placenta. There is no special word for 
the ovaries. 

Their physiological views are crude. The organs, of 
sex serve for excretion and for pleasure. The excretive 
urinary processes are not associated with the kidneys. A 
narrow duct {wotuna) leads from the stomach directly to 
the bladder, from which it passes through the male and 
female genitals. Through this canal the water which we 
drink passes slowly till it is expelled, and on its way it 
becomes discoloured and sullied in the stomach by contact 



with excrement. For food begins to be changed into 
excrement in the stomach. 

Their ideas about the sexual functions of the genitals 
are more complex and systematic, and present a sort of 
psycho-physiological theory. The eyes are the seat of 
desire and lust (magila kayta^ literally "desire of copu- 
lation"). They are the basis or cause (u^ula) of sexual 
passion. From the eyes, desire is carried to the brain by 
means of the wotuna (literally, tendril or creeper j in the 
anatomical context, vein, nerve, duct, or sinew), and 
thence spreads all over the body to the belly, the arms, 
the legs, until it finally concentrates in the kidneys. The 
kidneys are considered the main or middle part or trunk 
{tafwand) of the system. From them, other ducts 
(wo tuna) lead to the male organ. This is the tip or 
point (matalay literally eye) of the whole system. Thus, 
when the eyes see an object of desire they "wake up," 
communicate the impulse to the kidneys, which transmit 
it to the penis and cause an erection. Hence the eyes are 
the primary motive of all sexual excitement: they are "the 
things of copulation" 3 they are "that which makes us de- 
sire to copulate." In proof of this the natives say: "A 
man with his eyes closed will have no erection" 3 though 
they qualify this statement by admitting that the olfac- 
tory sense can sometimes replace the eyes, for "when a 
woman discards her grass petticoat in the dark, desire may 
be aroused." 

The process of sexual excitement in the female is 
analogous. Thus the eyes, the kidneys and the sexual 
organs are united by the same system of wo tuna (com- 



municating ducts). The eyes give the alarm, which passes 
through the body, takes possession of the kidneys, and 
produces sexual excitation of the clitoris. Both the male 
and female discharge are called by the same name 
(jnomona or momold)^ and they ascribe to both the same 
origin in the kidneys, and the same function, which has 
nothing to do with generation, but is concerned with 
lubricating the membrane and increasing pleasure. 

I first obtained this account of the subject from Nam- 
wana Guya'u and Piribomatu, the former an amateur and 
the latter a professional sorcerer ^ both were intelligent 
men and both, in virtue of their profession, were inter- 
ested in human anatomy and physiology. Thus it repre- 
sents the highest development of Trobriand knowledge 
and theory. I obtained similar statements in other parts 
of the island, and in their main outline — such as the 
sexual functions of the kidneys, the great importance of 
the eyes and the olfactory sense, and the strict parallel 
between male and female sexuality — all were in agree- 

And on the whole, it is a fairly consisteiit, and not 
altogether nonsensical view of the psycho-physiology of 
sexual libido. The drawing of a parallel between the 
two sexes is consistent. The indication of the three car- 
dinal points of the sexual system is sound, and character- 
istic of native canons of classification. In many subjects 
they distinguish these three elements: the uWlay the taf- 
wanay and the matala. The image is derived from a tree 
or a pillar or a spear: u^ula — in its literal sense the foot 
of the tree, the base, the foundation — has come, by ex- 



tension, to mean cause, origin, source of strength 5 taf- 
wanay the middle part of the trunk, also means the trunk 
itself, the main body of any elongated object, the length 
of a road 3 fnatala — originally eye, or point (as in a spear), 
and sometimes replaced by the word dogma or dahwanay 
the tip of a tree or the top of any high object — stands for 
the highest part, or, in more abstract metaphor, the final 
word, the highest expression. 

The comparison as generally applied to the sexual 
mechanism is not, as we have said, altogether devoid of 
meaning, and only becomes nonsensical in ascribing a 
special function to the kidneys. These are regarded as 
a highly important and vital part of the human organism, 
and mainly because they are the source of the seminal 
fluid. Another view attributes male and female dis- 
charge, not to the kidneys, but to the bowels. In either 
case, the natives consider that something in the bowels is 
the actual agent of ejaculation: ipipsi motnona — "it 
squirts out the discharge." 

Very remarkable is their entire ignorance of the physio- 
logical function of the testes. They are not aware that 
anything is produced in this organ, and leading questions 
as to whether the male fluid {momond) has not its source 
there are answered emphatically in the negative. "See, 
women have no testes and yet they produce momona?^ 
This part of the male body is said to be only an orna- 
mental appendage {katuhuhula) . "Indeed, how ugly 
would a penis look without the testes," a native aesthete 
will exclaim. The testes serve "to make it look proper" 



Love or affection {yobwaylt) has its seat in the intes- 
tines, in the skin of the belly, and of the arms, and only 
to a lesser extent in those springs of desire, the eyes. 
Hence, we like to look at those of whom we are fond, 
such as our children, our friends, or our parents, but 
when this love is strong we want to hug them. 

Menstruation the Trobrianders regard as a phenome- 
non connected with pregnancy in a vague manner: "the 
flow comes, it trickles, it trickles, it ebbs — it is over." 
They denote it simply by the word blood, buyaviy but 
with a characteristic grammatical peculiarity. While or- 
dinary bodily blood is always mentioned with the pronoun 
of nearest possession, which is affixed to all the parts of a 
human body, menstruous blood is spoken of with the 
same possessive pronouns as are used for ornamentation 
and articles of apparel (second nearest possession). Thus 
huyavlgUy "blood-mine" ("part of me — ^blood"), means 
bodily blood coming from a cut or haemorrhage 5 agu 
buyaviy "my blood" ("belonging to me — ^blood"), means 
menstruous blood. 

There is no pronounced masculine dislike or dread of 
menstruous blood. A man will not cohabit with his wife 
or sweetheart during her monthly period, but he will 
remain in the same hut and participate in the same food, 
and only refrains from sleeping in the same bed. Women, 
during menstruation, wash themselves daily, for purposes 
of cleanliness, in the same large water hole from which 
the whole village draws its drinking water, and in which, 
also, males occasionally take a bath. There are no special 
ablutions ceremonially carried out at the end of the pe- 



riod, nor is any rite performed when a girl menstruates 
for the first time. The women have no special way of 
dressing during menstruation, except that at times they 
wear a longer skirt, and there is no particular modesty on 
the subject between the sexes. 


The relation between menstruous blood and the for- 
mation of the foetus has been observed and recognized by 
the natives, but their ideas about it are extremely vague. 
Such as they are, they are so mixed up with beliefs about 
the incarnation of spiritual beings, that physiological 
process and spiritual agencies will have to be considered 
together in this account. Thus we shall preserve the 
natural sequence and perspective of native doctrine. Since 
the new life, in Trobriand tradition, begins with death, 
we shall now have to move to the bedside of a dying 
man, and follow the progress of his spirit till we trace 
him back to earthly existence again.^ 

The spirit after death moves to Tuma, the Island 
of the Dead, where he leads a pleasant existence analo- 
gous to the terrestrial life — only much happier. Into 

1 In my article "Baloraa, the Spirits of the Dead" already quoted, I 
have given a short preliminary account of native beliefs concerning pro- 
creation. I also expressed certain opinions about primitive ignorance of 
paternity in general, some of which were challenged by Professor Wester- 
marck {History of Human Marriage, 5th edition, vol. i, pp. 290 sq.) and 
by Professor Carveth Read (article, "No Paternity" in the Journal of the 
Anthropological Institute, 1917). The fuller evidence adduced in this 
chapter answers certain questions of fact raised by my critics. 



the nature of this bliss we shall have to inquire in some- 
what more detail, for sex plays an important part in it.^ 
Here we are concerned with one of its features only: per- 
petual youth, preserved by the power of rejuvenation. 
Whenever the spirit {haloma) sees that bodily hair is cov- 
ering his skin, that the skin itself is getting loose and 
wrinkled, and that his head is turning grey, he simply 
sloughs his covering and appears fresh and young, with 
black locks and smooth hairless skin. 

But when a spirit becomes tired of constant rejuvena- 
tion, when he has led a long existence "underneath" as 
the natives call it, he may want to return to earth again 5 
and then he leaps back in age and becomes a small pre- 
born infant. Some of my informants pointed out that in 
Tuma, as on earth, there are plenty of sorcerers. Black 
magic is frequently practised, and can reach a spirit and 
make him weak, sick and tired of life 3 then, and then 
only, will he go back to the beginnings of his existence 
and change into a spirit-child. To kill a spirit by black 
magic or accident is quite impossible 5 his end will always 
mean merely a new beginning. 

These rejuvenated spirits, these little pre-incarnated 
babies or spirit-children, are the only source from which 
humanity draws its new supplies of life. A pre-born 
infant finds its way back to the Trobriands and into the 
womb of some woman, but always of a woman who be- 
longs to the same clan and sub-clan as the spirit child 
itself. Exactly how it travels from Tuma to Boyowa, 
how it enters the body of its mother, and how there the 

1 Cf. below, ch. xii, last section. 



physiological processes of gestation combine with the spirit 
activity, are questions on which native belief is not alto- 
gether consistent. But that all spirits have ultimately to 
end their life in Tuma and turn into unborn infants j that 
every child born in this world has first come into exist- 
ence {ibubuli) in Tuma through the metamorphosis of a 
spirit j that the only reason and real cause of every birth 
is spirit activity, are facts known to everybody and firmly 
believed by all. 

Owing to its importance, I collected details and vari- 
ants of this system of beliefs with special care. The re- 
juvenation process is associated in a general way with sea 
water. In the myth which describes how humanity lost 
the privilege of regaining youth at will, the scene of the 
last rejuvenation is laid on the seashore in one of the 
lagoon inlets.^ In the first account of rejuvenation which 
I obtained in Omarakana, I was told that the spirit "goes 
to the beach and bathes in the salt water." Tomwaya 
Lakwabulo the Seer (pi. 37), who in his trances often goes 
to Tuma and has frequent intercourse with the spirits, told 
me: "The baloma go to a spring called sofiwina (literally 
Vashing water') j it lies on the beach. There they wash 
their skin with brackish water. They become to^ulatile 
(young men)." Likewise in the final rejuvenation, which 
makes them return to the infant state, the spirits have to 
bathe in salt water, and, when they become babies again, 
they go into the sea and drift. They are always spoken 

1 This story is given in Myth in Primitive Psychology, pp. 80-106. The 
village of Bwadela, where the loss of immortality occurred, is on the 
west shore of the southern half of the main island. 



of as floating on drift-logs, or on the leaves, boughs, dead 
seaweed, sea-scum, and the other light substances which 
litter the surface of the sea. Tomwaya Lakwabulo says 
that they float all the time around the shores of Tuma,, 
wailing wa^ way wa. "At night I hear their wailing. I 
ask, 'What is it?' 'Oh, children j the tide brings them^ 
they come.' " The spirits in Tuma can see these pre- 
incarnated infants, and so can Tomwaya Lakwabulo when 
he descends into the spirit world. But to ordinary people 
they are invisible. At times, however, fishermen from 
the northern villages of Kaybola and Lu'ebila, when they 
go far out into the sea after shark, will hear the wailing 
— way way wa — in the sighing of the wind and the waves. 
Tomwaya Lakwabulo and other informants maintain 
that such spirit children never float far away from Tuma. 
They are transported to the Trobriands by the help of 
another spirit. Tomwaya Lakwabulo gives the following 
account. "A child floats on a drift log. A spirit sees it 
is good-looking. She takes it. She is the spirit of the 
mother or of the father of the pregnant woman (nasu- 
suma) . Then she puts it on the head, in the hair, of the 
pregnant woman, who suffers headache, vomits, and has 
an ache in the belly. Then the child comes down into the 
belly, and she is really pregnant. She says: 'Already it 
(the child) has found mej already they (the spirits) have 
brought me the child.' " In this account we find two 
leading ideas: the active intervention of another spirit — • 
the one who somehow conveys the child back to the Tro- 
briands and gives it to the mother — ^and the insertion of 



it through the head, with which (not in the statement 
quoted, but usually) is associated the idea of an effusion 
of blood, first to the head and then into the abdomen. 

As to how the transportation is actually accomplished 
opinions vary: there are natives who imagine that the 
Dlder spirit carries the baby either in some sort of re- 
ceptacle — a plaited coconut basket or a wooden dish — 
or else simply in her arms. Others say candidly that they 
do not know. But the active control of another spirit is 
essentially important. When natives say that the chil- 
dren are "given by a balomay^ that "a baloma is the real 
cause of childbirth," they refer always to this controlling 
spirit (as we might call it), and not to the spirit baby 
itself. This controlling spirit usually appears in a dream 
to the woman about to be pregnant (see ch. viii, sec. i). 
As Motago'i, one of my best informants, volunteered: 
^'She dreams her mother comes to her, she sees the face 
of her mother in a dream. She wakes up, and says: 'Oh, 
there is a child for me.' " 

Frequently a woman will tell her husband who it was 
that brought the baby to her. And the tradition of this 
spiritual godfather or godmother is preserved. Thus the 
present chief of Omarakana knows that it was Bugwab- 
waga, one of his predecessors in office, who gave him to his 
mother. My best friend, Tokulubakiki, was a gift to his 
mother from her kadala^ mother's brother. Tokulu- 
bakiki's wife received her eldest daughter from her 
mother's spirit. Usually it is some maternal relative of 
the prospective mother who bestows the gift; but it may 
be her father, as in Tomwaya Lakwabulo's statement. 



The physiological theory associated with this belief 
has already been touched on. The spirit-child is laid by 
the bringer on the woman's head. Blood from her body 
rushes there, and on this tide of blood the baby gradually 
descends until it settles in the womb. The blood helps to 
build the body of the child — it nourishes it. That is the 
reason why, when a woman becomes pregnant, her men- 
struous flow stops. A woman will see that her menstrua- 
tion has stopped. She will wait one, two, three moons, 
and then she will know for certain that she is pregnant. 
A much less authoritative belief maintains that the baby, 
is inserted fer vaginam. 

Another version of the story of reincarnation ascribes 
more initiative to the pre-incarnated infant. It is sup- 
posed to be able to float of its own will towards the Tro- 
briands. There it remains, probably in company with 
others, drifting about the shores of the island, awaiting 
its chance to enter the body of a woman while she bathes. 
Certain observances kept by girls in coastal villages are 
evidence that the belief has vitality. The spirit children 
are imagined, as around Tuma, to be attached to drift 
logs, scum, leaves, and branches, or else to the small 
stones on the bottom of the sea. Whenever, through 
wind and tide, much debris accumulates near the shore, 
the girls will not enter the water for fear they might con- 
ceive. Again, in the villages on the northern coast, there 
is a custom of filling a wooden baler with water from the 
sea which is then left overnight in the hut of a woman 
who wishes to conceive, on the chance that a spirit-child 
might have been caught in the baler and transfer itself 



during the night into the woman. But even in this case, 
the woman is said to be visited in her dream by the spirit 
of some deceased maternal relative, so that a controlling 
spirit is still essential to conception. It is important to 
note that the water must always be fetched by her brother 
or by her mother's brother 5 that is, by a maternal kins- 
man. To give an example: a man from the village of 
Kapwani, on the northern shore, was asked by his sister's 
daughter to procure her a child. He went several times 
to the beach. One evening he heard a sound like the 
wailing of children. He drew water from the sea into 
the baler and left it in his kadaWs (niece's) hut over 
night. She conceived a child, a girl. This child, unfor- 
tunately, turned out to be an albino, but this mischance 
was not due to the method of conception. 

The chief points in which this belief differs from the 
one first described are that the pre-incarnated spirit child 
is endowed with more spontaneity — it can float across the 
sea and enter the bathing woman without help — and that 
its entry is effected fer vaglnaniy or else through the skin 
of the abdomen if conception takes place in the hut. I 
found this belief prevalent in the northern part of the 
island, and especially in its coastal villages. 

The nature of the spirit-child, or pre-incarnated baby, 
is not very clearly defined in traditional folk-lore. In 
answer to a direct question, the majority of informants 
said that they did not know what it was or what it looked 
like. One or two, however, who, through their superior 
intelligence, had worked out their beliefs in greater detail 
and with more consistency, said that it was like the foetus 



in the womb which, they added, "looks like a mouse." 
Tomwaya Lakwabulo volunteered the statement that pre- 
incarnated infants look like very minute and fully devel- 
oped children, and that they are sometimes very beautiful. 
He had to say something, of course, since, on his own 
showing, he had seen them frequently in Tuma. Even 
the nomenclature is not quite definite. Usually it is called 
*maywayay small child or foetus, but sometimes the word 
fwafwawa is used, which, though almost synonymous 
with waywaya^ refers perhaps rather to a child already 
born than to the foetus or a pre-incarnated baby. Quite 
as often, however, it is spoken of simply as "child," gwadi 
(plural, gugwadi). 

I was told, though I was not able to verify this com- 
pletely, that there is a magic performed over a species of 
betel leaf (kwega) called kaykatuv'tlena kwega^ to induce 
pregnancy. A woman in Yourawotu, a small village near 
Omarakana, knows this magic, but unfortunately I was 
unable to get into touch with her/ 

Thus, as is always the case, this belief dissolves into 
various and only pai-tially consistent elements when ex- 
amined under the magnifying glass of detailed research 
made over an extended area. The divergencies are not 
wholly due to geographical differences 5 nor can they be 
assigned to special social layers, for some of the incon- 
sistencies occurred in the account of one and the same 

^ A' statement which I guardedly gave on the authority of a trader in 
my article for the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1916, p. 404, 
to the effect that there are "some stones in Sinaketa, to which a woman 
who wants to become enceinte may have recourse," I found quite baseless 
after careful inquiries on the spot. 



man. Tomwaya Lakwabulo, for instance, insisted that 
the children cannot travel alone, but must be carried by a 
controlling spirit and placed in the woman j yet he in- 
formed me that their wailing could be heard on the north 
shore near Kaybola. Or, again, the man of Kiriwina, who 
told me how the spirit child might enter from a baler, 
also spoke of an older spirit "giving" that child. Such 
inconsistencies are probably the result of several mytho- 
logical cycles of ideas, meeting, so to speak, and inter- 
secting on the locus of this belief. One of these cycles 
contains the idea of rejuvenation 5 another that of fresh 
life floating on the sea towards the island j another that a 
new member of the family comes as a gift from some 
ancestral spirit. 

It is important, however, that, in all principal points, 
the various versions and descriptions agree, overlap and 
fortify one another 5 and we are left with a composite 
picture which, though blurred in some of its details, pre- 
sents a strong outline when viewed from a distance. Thus 
all spirits rejuvenate j all children are incarnated spirits; 
the identity of sub-clan is preserved throughout the cycle j 
the real cause of childbirth is the spirit initiative from 

It must be remembered, however, that the belief in 
reincarnation is not one which exercises a great influence 
over custom and social organization in the Trobriands; 
rather it is one of those doctrines which lead a quiet and 
passive existence in folk-lore, and affect social behaviour 
only to a small extent. Thus, for instance, although the 
Trobrianders firmly believe that each spirit becomes a pre- 



born infant, and that this again becomes reincarnated into 
a human being, yet no consciousness of personal identity- 
is preserved through the process. That is, no one knows 
whose incarnation the infant is- — who he was in his 
previous existence. There is no remembrance of past lif-e 
in Tuma or on earth. Any questioning of the natives 
makes it obvious that the whole problem appears to them 
irrelevant and indeed uninteresting. The only recognized 
rule which guides these metamorphoses is that the con- 
tinuity of clan and sub-clan is preserved throughout. 
There are no moral ideas of recompense or punishment 
embodied in their reincarnation theory, no customs or 
ceremonies associated with it or bearing witness to it. 


The correlation of the mystical with the physiological 
aspects in pregnancy belief — of the origin of the child 
in Tuma and its journey to the Trobriands with the sub- 
sequent processes in the maternal body, the welling up 
of the blood from the abdomen to the head and down 
again from the head to the womb — provides a co-ordi- 
nated and self-contained, though not always consistent, 
theory of the origin of human life. It also gives a good 
theoretical foundation for matriliny^ for the whole 
process of introducing new life into a community lies 
between the spirit world and the female organism. There 
is no room for any sort of physical paternity. 

But there is another condition considered by the natives 



indispensable for conception and child-birth, which com- 
plicates their theory and blurs the clear outline of their 
belief. This condition is related to sexual intercourse, 
and brings us face to face with the difficult and delicate 
question: are the natives really entirely ignorant of physi- 
ological fatherhood? Is it not rather a fact of which, 
they are more or less aware, though it may be overlaid 
and distorted by mythological and animistic beliefs? Is 
it not an instance of empirical knowledge possessed by a 
backward community, but never formulated because it is 
too obvious to need explicit statement, whereas the tradi- 
tional legend which is the basis of their social structure is 
carefully expressed as a part of the body of authoritative, 
dogma? The facts which I am about to adduce contain 
an unambiguous and decisive answer to these questions. I 
shall not anticipate the conclusion, which, indeed, as we 
shall see, will be drawn by the natives themselves. 

A virgin cannot conceive. 

Tradition, diffuse folk-lore, certain aspects of custom 
and customary behaviour, teach the natives this simple 
physiological truth. They have no doubt about it, and it 
will be seen from what follows that they can formulate 
it tersely and clearly. 

This statement was volunteered by Niyova, a sound 
informant in Oburaku: "A virgin does not conceive, be- 
cause there is no way for the children to go, for that 
woman to conceive. When the orifice is wide open, the 
spirits are aware, they give the child." This is quite 
clear 5 but during the same sitting, the same informant 
had previously given me a detailed description of how the 



spirit lays the child on the woman's head. The words of 
Niyova, here quoted verbatim, imply an insertion fer 
vaglnam. Ibena, a clever old man of Kasana'i, gave me 
a similar explanation — in fact, it was he who first made 
it clear to me that virginity mechanically impedes spirit 
impregnation. His method of explanation was graphic. 
Holding out his closed fist, he asked: "Can anything 
enter?" Then, opening it, he continued: "Now, of course, 
it is easy. Thus it is that a hulabola (large orifice) con- 
ceives easily, and a naka-patu (small or closed entrance, a 
virgin) cannot do it." 

I have quoted these two statements in extensOy as they 
are telling and characteristic j but they are not isolated. 
I received a great number of similar declarations, all ex- 
pressing the view that the way must be open for the child, 
but this need not necessarily be brought about by sexual 
intercourse. The point is quite clear. The vagina must 
be opened to remove the physiological obstacle, called 
simply kdafatu (her tightness). Once this has been 
done, in the normal way by sexual intercourse, there is no 
need for male and female to come together in order to 
produce a child. 

Considering that there are no virgins in the villages — 
for every female child begins her sexual life very early — 
we may wonder how the natives arrived at this conditio 
sine qua non. Again, since they have got so far, it may 
appear difficult to see why they have not advanced just 
a little further and grasped the fertilizing virtue of 
seminal fluid. Nevertheless, there are many facts to 
prove that they have not made this advance: as certainly 



as they know the necessity of a mechanical opening of the 
vagina, so they do not know the generative power of the 
male discharge. It was in discussing the mythological 
tales of mankind's beginnings on earth (see below, ch. 
xiii, sec. 5) and fantastic legends of distant lands, to the 
account of which I shall now proceed, that I was made 
aware of this subtle yet all-important distinction between 
mechanical dilation and physiological fertilization 5 and 
was thus enabled to place native belief regarding pro- 
creation in its proper perspective. 

According to native tradition, mankind originated from 
underground, whence a couple, a brother and a sister, 
emerged at different specified places. According to certain 
legends, only women appeared at first. Some of my com- 
mentators insisted upon this version: "You see, we are so 
many on the earth because many women came first. Had 
there been many men, we would be few." Now, whether 
accompanied by her brother or not, the primeval woman is 
always imagined to bear children without the interven- 
tion of a husband or of any other male partner 5 but not 
without the vagina being opened by some means. In 
some of the traditions this is mentioned explicitly. Thus 
on the island of Vakuta there is a myth which describes 
how an ancestress of one of the sub-clans exposed her 
body to falling rain, and thus mechanically lost her vir- 
ginity. In the most important Trobriand myth, a woman, 
called Mitigis or Bolutukwa, mother of the legendary 
hero Tudava, lives quite alone in a grotto on the seashore. 
One day she falls asleep in her rocky dwelling, reclining 
under a dripping stalactite. The drops of water pierce 



her vagina, and thus deprive her of virginity. Hence 
her second name, Bolutukwa: bo, female, prefix Utukway 
dripping water. In other myths of origin the means of 
piercing the hymen are not mentioned, but it is often 
explicitly stated that the ancestress was without a man, 
and could, therefore, have no sexual intercourse. When 
asked in so many words how it was that they bore children 
without a man, the natives would mention, more or less 
coarsely or jestingly, some means of perforation which 
they could easily have used, and it was clear that no more 
■was necessary. 

Moving into another mythological dimension — into 
present-day legends of countries far to the north — ^we 
find the marvellous land of Kaytalugi, peopled exclu- 
sively by sexually rabid women.^ They are so brutally 
profligate that their excesses kill every man thrown by 
chance upon their shores, and even their own male chil- 
dren never attain maturity before they are sexually done 
to death. Yet these women are very prolific, producing 
many children, male and female. If a native is asked 
how this can be, how these females become pregnant 
if there are no men, he simply cannot understand such 
an absurd question. These women, he will say, destroy 
their virginity in all sorts of ways if they cannot get hold 
of a man to torture to death. And they have got their 
own haloma, of course, to give them children. 

I have adduced these mythical instances first, for they 
clearly demonstrate the native point of view 5 the need 
for perforation, and the absence of any idea concerning 

1 Cf. ch. xil, sec. 4. 



the fertilizing value of the semen. But there are some 
convincing present-day instances which show that the 
natives believe that a girl can be with child without 
previous sexual intercourse. Thus, there are some women 
so ugly and repulsive that no one believes that they can 
ever have had intercourse (save, of course, for those few 
who know better, but who are very careful to keep silent 
from shame j see ch. x, sec. 2). There is Tilapo'i, now 
an old woman, who was famous for her hideousness in 
youth. She has become blind, was always almost an 
idiot, and had a repulsive face and deformed body. Her 
unattractiveness was so notorious that she became the 
subject of a saying: Kwoy Tilafo^i ("have connection 
with Tilapo'i"), a form of abuse used in mild chaff (ch. 
xiii, sec. 4). Altogether she is an infinite source and pivot 
of all kinds of matrimonial and obscene jokes, all based 
on the presumed impossibility of being Tilapo'i's lover 
or prospective husband. I was assured, over and over 
again, that no one ever could have had connection with 
her. Yet this woman has had a child, as the natives 
would triumphantly point out, when I tried to persuade 
them that only by intercourse can children be produced. 
Again, there is the case of Kurayana, a woman of 
Sinaketa, whom I never saw, but who, I was told, was 
"so ugly that any man would be ashamed" to have inter- 
course with her. This saying implies that social shame 
would be an even stronger deterrent than sexual repul- 
sion, an assumption which shows that my informant was 
not a bad practical psychologist. Kurayana, as thoroughly 
chaste as anyone could be — ^by necessity, if not by virtue — 



had no less than six children, five of whom died and one 
of whom still survives/ 

Albinos, male and female, are considered unfit for 
sexual intercourse. There is not the slightest doubt that 
all the natives feel real horror of and disgust for these 
unfortunate beings, a horror perfectly comprehensible 
after one has seen specimens of such unpigmented natives 
(see pi. 38). Yet there are on record several instances 
of albino women who have brought forth a numerous 
progeny. "Why did they become pregnant? Is it because 
they copulate at night time? or because a haloma has 
given them children?" Such was the clinching argument 
of one of my informants, for the first alternative appeared 
obviously absurd. Indeed, the whole of this line of argu- 
ment was volunteered to me in one of my early discus- 
sions of the subject, although I obtained confirmatory 
data by subsequent research. For as a means of testing 
the firmness of their belief, I sometimes made myself 
definitely and aggressively an advocate of the truer physi- 
ological doctrine of procreation. In such arguments the 
natives would quote, not only positive instances, such as 
those just mentioned, of women who have children with- 
out having enjoyed any intercourse 3 but would also refer 
to the equally convincing negative aspect, that is, to the 
many cases in which an unmarried woman has plenty of 
intercourse and no children. This argument would be 
repeated over and over again, with specially telling con- 

1 In the already quoted article in the Journal of the Anthropological 
Institute, 1916, I did an injustice to Kurayana in stating on p. 412 that 
she was the mother of five children only. Six is the correct number, all 
produced without the assistance of a man. 



Crete examples of childless persons renowned for prof- 
ligacy, or of women who lived with one white trader 
after another without having any baby. 


Although I was never afraid of using a leading ques- 
tion, or of eliciting the natives' point of view by con- 
tradicting it, I was somewhat astonished at the fierce 
opposition evoked by my advocacy of physiological pater- 
nity. Only late in my Trobriand career did I find out 
that I was not the first to attack this part of native belief, 
having been preceded by the missionary teachers. I speak 
mainly of the coloured onesj for I do not know what 
attitude was taken by the one or two white men who were 
in charge of the mission before my time, and those who 
came to the islands while I was there only held office 
for a short period and did not go into such details. But 
all my native informants corroborated the fact, once I 
had discovered it, that the doctrine and ideal of Paternity, 
and all that tends to strengthen it, is advocated by the 
coloured Christian teachers. 

We must realize that the cardinal dogma of God the 
Father and God the Son, the sacrifice of the only Son and 
the filial love of man to his Maker would completely miss 
fire in a matrilineal society, where the relation between 
father and son is decreed by tribal law to be that of two 
strangers, where all personal unity between them is 
denied, and where all family obligations are associated 



with mother-line. We cannot then wonder that Paternity 
must be among the principal truths to be inculcated by 
proselytizing Christians. Otherwise the dogma of the 
Trinity would have to be translated into matrilineal 
terms, and we should have to speak of a God-kadala 
(mother's brother), a God-sisterVson, and a divine 
halofna (spirit). 

But apart from any doctrinal difSculty, the missionaries 
are earnestly engaged in propagating sexual morality 
as we conceive it, in which endeavour the idea of the 
sexual act as having serious consequences to family life is 
indispensable. The whole Christian morality, moreover, 
is strongly associated with the institution of a patrilineal 
and patriarchal family, with the father as progenitor 
and master of the household. In short, a religion whose 
dogmatic essence is based on the sacredness of the father 
to son relationship, and whose morals stand or fall by a 
strong patriarchal family, must obviously proceed by con- 
firming the paternal relation, by showing that it has a 
natural foundation. Only during my third expedition to 
New Guinea did I discover that the natives had been 
somewhat exasperated by having an "absurdity" preached 
at them, and by finding me, so "unmissionary" as a rule, 
engaged in the same futile argument. 

When I found this out, I used to call the correct 
physiological view "the talk of the missionaries," and 
goad the natives into comment or contradiction. In this 
manner I obtained some of my strongest and clearest 
statements, from which I shall select a few. 

Motago'i, one of my most intelligent informants, in 



answer to a somewhat arrogantly framed affirmation that 
the missionaries were right, exclaimed: — 

^^Gala walal Isasofast: yamhwata yamhwata 
Not at all! They lie: always always 

nakubukwahuya momona ikasewo 

unmarried girls seminal fluid it is brimful 

Utusi gala,^^ 

children theirs not. 

Which may be freely rendered: "Not at all, the mis- 
sionaries are mistaken j unmarried girls continually have 
intercourse, in fact they overflow with seminal fluid, and 
yet have no children." 

Here, in terse and picturesque language, Motago'i ex- 
presses the view that, after all, if sexual intercourse were 
causally connected with child production, it is the un- 
married girls who should have children, since they lead 
a much more intensive sexual life than the married ones — 
a puzzling difficulty which really exists, as we shall see 
later on, but which our informant exaggerates slightly, 
since unmarried girls do conceive, though not nearly as 
frequently as anyone holding the "missionary views" 
would be led to expect. Asked in the course of the same 
discussion: "What, then, is the cause of pregnancy?" he 
answered: "Blood on the head makes child. The seminal 
fluid does not make the child. Spirits bring at night time 
the infant, put on women's heads — it makes blood. Then, 
after two or three months, when the blood [that is, 
menstruous blood] does not come out, they know: ^Oh, 
I am pregnant!' " 



An informant in Teyava, in a similar discussion, made 
several statements of which I adduce the two most spon- 
taneous and conclusive ones. "Copulation alone cannot 
produce a child. Night after night, for years, girls copu- 
late. No child comes." In this we see again the same 
argument from empirical evidence j the majority of girls, 
in spite of their assiduous cultivation of intercourse, do 
not bring forth. In another statement the same infor- 
mant says: "They talk that seminal fluid makes child. 
Lie! The spirits indeed bring [children] at night time." 

My favourite informant in Omarakana, Tokulubakiki, 
on whose honesty, goodwill, and dispassionate reflection 
I could always rely, when I wanted a final test of my 
information, gave a clear, though somewhat Rabelaisian, 
statement of the native point of view: — 

^^Takaytay itokay vivila italagila 

We copulate she gets up woman it runs out 

fnomona — iwokwo?^ 

seminal fluid — it is finished. 

In other words, after the traces of sexual intercourse 
have been removed, there are no further consequences. 

These sayings are trenchant enough, as were those pre- 
viously quoted 5 but, after all, an opinion is a mere aca- 
demic expression of belief, the depth and tenacity of 
which can best be gauged by the test of behaviour. To 
a South Sea native, as to a European peasant, his domestic 
animals — that is, his pigs — are the most valued and cher- 
ished members of the household. And if his earnest and 
genuine conviction can be seen anywhere, it will be in his 



care for the welfare and quality of his animals. The 
South Sea natives are extremely keen to have good, strong, 
and healthy pigs, and pigs of a good breed. 

The main distinction which they make in the matter 
of quality is that between the wild or bush-pigs, and the 
tame village pigs. The village pig is considered a great 
delicacy, while the flesh of the bush-pig is one of the 
strongest taboos to people^ of rank in Kiriwina, the trans- 
gression of which they hold in genuine horror and disgust. 
Yet they allow the female domestic pigs to wander on 
the outskirts of the village and in the bush, where they 
can pair freely with male bush-pigs. On the other hand, 
they castrate all the male pigs in the village in order to 
improve their condition. Thus, naturally, all the progeny 
are in reality descended from wild bush sires. Yet the 
natives have not the slightest inkling of this fact. When 
I said to one of the chiefs, "You eat the child of a 
bush-pig," he simply took it as a bad jokej for making 
fun of bush-pig eating is not considered altogether good 
taste by a Trobriander of birth and standing. But he 
did not understand at all what I really meant. 

On one occasion when I asked directly how pigs breed, 
the answer was : "The female pig breeds by itself," which 
simply meant that, probably, there is no haloma involved 
in the multiplication of domestic animals. When I drew 
parallels and suggested that small pigs are brought by 
their own balomas, they were not convinced j and it was 
evident that neither their own interest, nor the data sup- 
plied by tradition, went far enough to inspire any con- 
cern as to the procreation of pigs. 



Very important was a statement volunteered to me by 
Motago'i: "From all male pigs we cut off the testes. 
They copulate not. Yet the females bring forth." Thus 
he ignored the possible misconduct of the bush-pigs, and 
adduced the castration of domestic hogs as final proof 
that intercourse has nothing to do with breeding. On 
another occasion, I instanced the only two goats in the 
Archipelago, one male and one female, which a trader 
had recently imported. When I asked whether the 
female would bear any young if the male were killed, 
there was no uncertainty about the answer: "Year after 
year she will breed." Thus they have the firm conviction 
that if a female animal were entirely cut off from any 
male of the species, this would by no means interfere with 
her fecundity. 

Another crucial test is provided by the recent importa- 
tion of European pigs. In honour of the first man who 
brought them, the late Mick George, a Greek trader 
and a truly Homeric character, they are called by the 
natives bulukwa Miki (Mick's pigs), and they will give 
five to ten of the native pigs in exchange for one of them. 
Yet when they have acquired it, they will not take the 
slightest precautions to make it breed with a male of the 
same superior race, though they could easily do so. In 
one instance when, having several small pigs of European 
race they castrated all the males, they were reproved by 
a white trader, and told that by so doing they lowered the 
whole breed. But they simply could not be made to 
understand, and all over the district they continue to allow 
their valued European pigs to mis-breed. 



In the article already quoted {Journal of the An- 
thropological Institute y 191 6) I gave verbatim a remark 
of one of my informants about pigs, obtained early in the 
course of my field-work. "They copulate, copulate, pres- 
ently the female will give birth." My comment was: 
^'Thus here copulation appears to be the u^ula (cause) 
, of pregnancy." This opinion, even in its qualified form, 
is incorrect. As a matter of fact, during my first visit 
to the Trobriands, after which this article was written, 
I never entered deeply into the matter of animal procrea- 
tion. The concise native utterance quoted above, cannot, 
in the light of subsequent fuller information, be inter- 
preted as implying any knowledge of how pigs really 
breed. As it stands, it simply means that vaginal dilation 
is as necessary in animals as in human beings. It also 
implies that, according to native tradition, animals are 
not subject in this, as in many other respects, to the same 
causal relations as man. In man, spirits are the cause of 
pregnancy: in animals — it just happens. Again, while the 
Trobrianders ascribe all human ailments to sorcery, with 
animals disease is just disease. Men die because of very 
strong evil magic 3 animals — ^just die. But it would be 
quite incorrect to interpret this as evidence that the natives 
know, in the case of animals^ the natural causes of 
impregnation, disease, and death 3 while in man they 
obliterate this knowledge by an animistic superstructure. 
The true summary of the native outlook is that they are 
so deeply interested in human affairs that they construct 
a special tradition about all that is vital for manj while 



in what concerns animals, things are taken as they come, 
without any attempt at explanation, and also without any 
insight into the real course of nature. 

Their attitude to their own children also bears witness 
to their ignorance of any causal relation between congress 
and the ensuing pregnancy. A man whose wife has con- 
ceived during his absence will cheerfully accept the fact 
and the child, and he will see no reason at all for sus- 
pecting her of adultery. One of my informants told me 
that after over a year's absence he returned to find a 
newly born child at home. He volunteered this statement 
as an illustration and final proof of the truth that sexual 
intercourse has nothing to do with conception. And it 
must be remembered that no native would ever discuss 
any subject in which the slightest suspicion of his wife's 
fidelity could be involved. In general, no allusion is 
ever made to her sexual life, past or present. Her preg- 
nancy and childbirth are, on the other hand, freely dis- 

There is another instance of a native of the small 
island of Kitava, who, after two years' absence, was quite 
pleased to find a few months' old baby at home, and could 
not in the slightest degree understand the indiscreet taunts 
and allusions of some white men with reference to his 
wife's virtue. My friend Layseta, a great sailor and ma- 
gician of Sinaketa, spent a long time in his later youth 
in the Amphlett Islands. On his return he found two 
children, borne by his wife during his absence. He is very 
fond of them and of his wife 5 and when I discussed the 



matter with others, suggesting that one at least of these 
children could not be his, my interlocutors did not under- 
stand what I meant. 

Thus we see, from these instances, that children born 
in wedlock during a prolonged absence of the husband, 
will yet be recognized by him as his own children, that is 
as standing to him in the social relation of child to father. 
An instructive parallel to this is supplied by cases of chil- 
dren born out of wedlock, but during a liaison as exclu- 
sive as a marriage. In such a case, the physiological father 
would be obvious to usj yet a Trobriander would not 
recognize the children as his, and further, since for a girl 
it is dishonourable to bear children before she is married, 
he might refuse to marry her. Of this I had a good 
example: Gomaya, one of my early informants, whom 
we know already (ch. iv, sec. 6), had a liaison with a girl 
called Ilamweria (pi. 39). They lived together and were 
going to be married, but she became pregnant and gave 
birth to a girl, whereupon Gomaya abandoned her. He 
Was quite convinced that she had never had any relations 
with another boy, so, if any question of physiological 
fatherhood had come into his mind, he would have ac- 
cepted the child as his own, and married the mother. 
But, in accordance with the native point of view, he simply 
did not inquire into the question of fatherhood 3 it was 
enough that there was prenuptial motherhood. 

Thus of children borne by a married woman, her hus- 
band is the father ex officio^ but for an unmarried mother, 
there is "no father to the child." The father is defined 
socially, and in order that there may be fatherhood there 



must be marriage. And traditional sentiment regards 
illegitimate children, as we have said, as improper on the 
part of the mother. Of course there is no implication of 
sexual guilt in this censure, but, to the native, to do wrong 
is simply to act contrary to custom. And it is not the 
custom for an unmarried girl to have babies, although 
it is the custom for her to have as much sexual intercourse 
as she likes. When asked why it is considered bad, they 
will answer: — 

^^Pela gala tamala^ gala taytala bikofoH^^ 
\ "Because no father his, no man he [who] might take 
[it] in his arms." 

"Because there is no father to the child, there is no 
man to take it in his arms." In this locution, the correct 
definition of the term tamala is clearly expressed: it is 
the mother's husband, the man whose role and duty it 
is to take the child in his arms and to help her in nursing 
and bringing it up. 



This seems a convenient place to speak about the very 
interesting problem of illegitimate children, or, as the 
natives word it, "children borne by unmarried girls," 
"fatherless children." Several questions must, no doubt, 
have already obtruded themselves on the reader. Since 
there is so much sexual freedom, must there not be a great 
number of children born out of wedlock? If this is not 
so, what means of prevention do the natives possess? If 



it is so, how do they deal with the problem, what is the 
position of illegitimate children? 

As to the first question, it is very remarkable to note 
that illegitimate children are rare. The girls seem to 
remain sterile throughout their period of licence, which 
begins when they are small children and continues until 
they marry j when they are married they conceive and 
breed, sometimes quite prolifically. I express myself cau- 
tiously about the number of illegitimate children, for in 
most cases there are special difficulties even in ascertain- 
ing the fact. To have prenuptial children is, as I have 
said, by an arbitrary ruling of doctrine and custom, con- 
sidered reprehensible. Thus, out of delicacy towards 
people present, out of family interest or local pride, the 
existence of such children is invariably concealed. Such 
children are often adopted by some relative, and the 
elasticity of kinship terms makes it very difficult to dis- 
tinguish between actual and adopted children. If a mar- 
ried man says, "This is my child," it may quite easily 
be his wife's sister's illegitimate baby. So that only an 
approximate estimate can be made even in a community 
with which one is very well acquainted. I was able to 
find roughly a dozen illegitimate children recorded 
genealogically in the Trobriands, or about one per cent. 
In this the illegitimate children of the ugly, deformed, or 
albino women mentioned above are not included, as none 
of them happens to figure in the genealogical records 
made by me. 

Thus we are faced with the question: Why are there 



so few illegitimate children? On this subject I can only 
speak tentatively, and I feel that my information is per- 
haps not quite as full as it might have been, had I con- 
centrated more attention upon it. One thing I can say 
with complete confidence: no preventive means of any 
description are known, nor the slightest idea of them 
entertained. This, of course, is quite natural. Since the 
procreative power of seminal fluid is not known, since it is 
considered not only innocuous but beneficent, there is 
no reason why the natives should interfere with its free 
arrival in the parts which it is meant to lubricate. In- 
deed, any suggestion of neo-Malthusian appliances makes 
them shudder or laugh according to their mood or tem- 
perament. They never practice coitus interrupuSy and 
still less have any notion about chemical or mechanical 

But though I am quite certain on this point, I cannot 
speak with the same conviction about abortion, though 
probably it is not practised to any large extent. I may say 
at once that the natives, when discussing these matters, 
feel neither fear nor constraint, so there can be no question 
of any difficulties in finding out the state of affairs because 
of reticence or concealment. My informants told me that 
a magic exists to bring about premature birth, but I was 
not able either to obtain instances in which it was per- 
formed, or to find out the spells or rites made use of. 
Some of the herbs employed in this magic were mentioned 
to me, but I am certain that none of them possess any 
physiological properties. Abortion by mechanical means 



seems, in fine, the only effective method practised to check 
the increase of population, and there is no doubt that even 
this is not used on a large scale. 

So the problem remains. Can there be any physio- 
logical law which makes conception less likely when 
women begin their sexual life young, lead it indef atigably, 
and mix their lovers freely? This, of course, cannot be 
answered here, as it is a purely biological question j but 
some such solution of the diiiiculty seems to me the only 
one, unless I have missed some very important eth- 
nological clue. I am, as I have said, by no means con- 
fident of my researches being final in this matter. 

It is amusing to find that the average white resident or 
visitor to the Trobriands is deeply interested in this sub- 
ject, and in this subject only, of all the ethnological prob- 
lems opened to him for consideration. There is a belief 
prevalent among the white citizens of eastern New 
Guinea that the Trobrianders are in possession of some 
mysterious and powerful means of prevention or abortion. 
This belief is, no doubt, explicable by the remarkable 
and puzzling facts which we have just been discussing. 
It is enhanced by insufficient knowledge, and the tendency 
towards exaggeration and sensationalism so characteristic 
of the crude European mind. Of insufficient knowledge, 
I had several examples 3 for every white man with whom 
I spoke on the subject would start with the dogmatic 
assertion that unmarried girls among the Trobrianders 
never have children, saving those who live with white 
traders 5 whereas, as we have seen, illegitimate children 
are on record. Equally incorrect and fantastic is the 



belief in mysterious contraceptives, for which not even the 
oldest residents, who are firmly convinced of their ex- 
istence, can supply any basis in fact. This seems to be 
an example of the well-known truth, that a higher race 
in contact with a lower one has a tendency to credit the 
members of the latter with mysterious demoniacal powers. 
Returning now to the question of "fatherless children," 
we find among the Trobrianders a trend of public opinion 
with regard to illegitimacy which almost amounts to a 
moral rule. We, in our own society, share this opinion 
very emphatically j but with us it is connected with our 
strong moral condemnation of unchastity. In theory at 
least, if not in practice, we condemn the fruits of sexual 
immorality, because of the cause and not because of the 
consequence. Our syllogism runs thus: "All intercourse 
out of wedlock is bad 3 pregnancy is caused by intercourse 5 
hence all unmarried pregnant girls are bad." Thus, when 
we find in another society the last term of the syllogism 
endorsed, we jump to the conclusion that the other terms 
also obtain, especially the middle one. That is, we as- 
sume that the natives are aware of physiological paternity. 
We know, however, that the first proposition is not ac- 
cepted in the Trobriands, for intercourse out of wedlock 
is quite free from censure unless it offends the special 
taboos of adultery, exogamy, and incest. Therefore the 
middle term cannot serve as a connecting link, and the 
fact that the natives endorse the conclusion proves nothing 
about their knowledge of fatherhood. I have developed 
this point in some detail, because it is a characteristic 
example of how difficult is emancipation from our own 



narrow modes of thinking and feeling, and our own rigid 
structures of social and moral prejudice. Although I 
myself should have been on my guard against such traps, 
and though at that time I was already acquainted with 
the Trobrianders and their ways of thinking, yet, on 
realizing their disapproval of children out of wedlock, I 
went through all this false reasoning before a fuller 
acquaintance with the facts forced me to correct it. 

Fecundity in unmarried girls is discreditable j sterility 
in married women is unfortunate. The same term 
nakange {na, female prefix, karige^ to die) is used of a 
childless woman as of a barren sow. But this condition 
brings no shame on the person concerned, and does not 
detract from the social status of such a woman. The 
oldest wife of To'uluwa, Bokuyoba, has no children, yet 
she ranks first among the wives as is the due of her age. 
Nor is the word nakange considered to be indelicate; a 
sterile woman will use it when speaking of herself, and 
others will apply it to her in her presence. But fertility 
in married women is considered a good thing. Primarily 
it affects her maternal kinsmen, and is a matter of great 
importance to them (see ch. i, sec. i). '^The kinsmen 
rejoice, for their bodies become stronger when one of their 
sisters or nieces has plenty of children." The wording 
of this statement expresses the interesting conception of 
collective clan unity, of the members being not only of 
the same flesh, but almost forming one body (see ch. vi 
and ch. xiii, sec. 5). 

Returning again to the main trend of our argument, 
it must be noted that the scorn and disapproval levelled 



at illegitimacy is highly significant sociologically. Let 
us realize once more this interesting and strange constel- 
lation of facts: physical fatherhood is unknown j yet 
fatherhood in a social sense is considered necessary and 
the "fatherless child" is regarded as something anom- 
alous, contrary to the normal course of events, and hence 
reprehensible. What does this mean? Public opinion, 
based on tradition and custom, declares that a woman 
must not become a mother before she marries, though she 
may enjoy as much sexual liberty as she likes within 
lawful bounds. This means that a mother needs a de- 
fender and provider of economic necessities. She has one 
natural master and protector in her brother, but he is not 
in a position to look after her in all matters where she 
needs a guardian. According to native ideas, a woman 
who is pregnant must, at a certain stage, abstain from all 
intercourse and "turn her mind away from men." She 
then needs a man who will take over all sexual rights 
in regard to her, abstain from exercising even his own 
privileges from a certain moment, guard her from any 
interference, and control her own behaviour. All this the 
brother cannot do, for, owing to the strict brother-sister 
taboo, he must scrupulously avoid even the thought of 
anything which is concerned with his sister's sex. Again, 
there is the need for a man to keep guard over her during 
childbirth, and "to receive the child into his arms," as 
the natives put it. Later it is the duty of this man to 
share in all the tender cares bestowed on the child (see 
ch. i, sees, i and 3 j and ch. xiii, sec. 6). Only when the 
child grows up does he relinquish the greater part of his 



authority and hand it over to his wife's brother, retaining 
some of it in the case of female children, when it comes 
to marriage (see above, ch. iv). 

Thus the part played by the husband is strictly defined 
by custom and is considered socially indispensable. A 
woman with a child and no husband is an incomplete and 
anomalous group. The disapproval of an illegitimate 
child and of its mother is a particular instance of the gen- 
eral disapproval of everything which does not conform to 
custom, and runs counter to the accepted social pattern 
and traditional tribal organization. The family, consist- 
ing of husband, wife, and children, is the standard set 
down by tribal law, which also defines the functions of 
its component parts. It is therefore not right that one of 
the members of this group should be missing. 

Thus, though the natives are ignorant of any physio- 
logical need for a male in the constitution of the family, 
they regard him as indispensable socially. This is very 
important. Paternity, unknown in the full biological 
meaning so familiar to us, is yet maintained by a social 
dogma which declares: "Every family must have a 
father 5 a woman must marry before she may have chil- 
dren ^ there must be a male to every household." 

The institution of the individual family is thus firmly 
established on a strong feeling of its necessity, quite com- 
patible with an absolute ignorance of its biological foun- 
dations. The sociological role of the father is established 
and defined without any recognition of his physiological 




The interesting duality between matrilineal and patri^ 
archal influences, represented by the mother's brother 
and the father respectively, is one of the leitmotifs of 
the first act of Trobriand tribal life. Here we have come 
to the very core of the problem: for we see within this 
social scheme, with its rigid brother-sister taboo and its 
ignorance of physical fatherhood, two natural spheres of 
influence to be exercised over a woman by a man (see 
ch. i, sees, i and 2) : the one, that of sex, from which 
the brother is absolutely debarred and where the hus- 
band's influence is paramount j the other, that in which 
the natural interests of blood relationship can be safe- 
guarded properly only by one who is of the same blood. 
This is the sphere of the woman's brother. 

By the brother's inability to control or to approach, 
even as a distant spectator, the principal theme in a 
woman's life — ^her sex — a wide breach is left in the sys- 
tem of matriliny. Through this breach the husband 
enters into the closed circle of family and household, and 
once there makes himself thoroughly at home. To his 
children he becomes bound by the strongest ties of per- 
sonal attachment, over his wife he assumes exclusive 
sexual rights, and shares with her the greater part of do- 
mestic and economic concerns. 

On the apparently unpropitious soil of strict matriliny, 
with its denial of any paternal bond through procreation 



and its declaration of the father's extraneousness to 
progeny, there spring up certain beliefs, ideas and cus- 
tomary rules, which smuggle extreme patrilineal prin- 
ciples into the stronghold of mother-right. One of these 
ideas is of the kind which figures so largely in sensa- 
tional amateur records of savage life, and it strikes us 
at first as savage indeed, so lop-sided, distorted and quaint 
does it appear. I refer to their idea about the similarity 
between parents and offspring. That this is a favourite 
topic of nursery gossip in civilized communities needs no 
special comment. In a matrilineal society, such as the 
Trobriands, where all maternal relatives are considered 
to be of the "same body," and the father to be a 
^^stranger," we should have no doubt in anticipating that 
facial and bodily similarity would be traced in the 
mother's family alone. The contrary is the case, how- 
ever, and this is afiirmed with extremely strong social 
emphasis. Not only is it a household dogma, so to speak, 
that a child never resembles its mother, or any of its 
brothers and sisters, or any of its maternal kinsmen, but 
it is extremely bad form and a great offence to hint at any 
such similarity. To resemble one's father, on the other 
hand, is the natural, right, and proper thing for a man 
or woman to do. 

I was introduced to this rule of savoir vivre in the usual 
way, by making a faux fas. One of my bodyguard in 
Omarakana, named Moradeda, was endowed with a 
peculiar cast of features which had struck me at first 
sight and fascinated me, for it had a strange similarity to 
the Australian aboriginal type — ^wavy hair, broad face, 



low forehead, extremely broad nose, with a much de- 
pressed bridge, wide mouth with protruding lips, and a 
prognathous chin. One day I was struck by the appear- 
ance of an exact counterpart to Moradeda, and asked his 
name and whereabouts. When I was told that he was my 
friend's elder brother, living in a distant village, I ex- 
claimed: "Ah, truly! I asked about you because your 
face is alike — alike to that of Moradeda." There came 
such a hush over all the assembly that I was startled by it 
at once. The man turned round and left usj while part 
of the company present, after averting their faces in a 
manner half-embarrassed, half -off ended, soon dispersed. 
I was then told by my confidential informants that I had 
committed a breach of custom ^ that I had perpetrated 
what is called tafutaki migilay a technical expression re- 
ferring only to this act which might be translated: "To- 
defile-by-comparing-to-a-kinsman-his-face" (see ch. xiii, 
sec. 4). What astonished me in this discussion was that, 
in spite of the striking resemblance between the two 
brothers, my informants refused to admit it. In fact, 
they treated the question as if no one could possibly ever 
resemble his brother, or, for the matter of that, any 
maternal kinsman. I made my informants quite angry 
and displeased with me by arguing the point, and even 
more so by quoting cases of such obvious similarity be- 
tween two brothers as that which obtained between 
Namwana Guya'u and Yobukwa'u (pi. 40). 

This incident taught me never to hint at such a re- 
semblance in the presence of the people concerned. But 
I thrashed the matter out with many natives subsequently 



in the course of general conversation. I found that every- 
one in the Trobriands will, in the teeth of all the evi- 
dence, stoutly deny that similarity can exist between 
matrilineal kinsmen. A Trobriander is simply irritated 
and insulted if striking instances are pointed out to him, 
in exactly the same way as, in our own society, we irritate 
our next-door neighbour by bringing before him a glaring 
truth which contradicts some cherished opinion, political, 
religious, or moral, or which, still worse, runs counter to 
his personal interests. 

The Trobrianders maintain that mention of such like- 
nesses can only be made to insult a man. It is, in fact, 
a technical phrase in serious bad language to say migim 
lumuta, "Thy face thy sister's," which, by the way, is the 
worst combination of kinship similarity. This expression 
is considered quite as bad as "have intercourse with thy 
sister!" But, according to a Trobriander, no sane and 
decent man can possibly entertain in a sober dispassionate 
mood such an outrageous thought as that anyone should 
in the slightest degree resemble his sister (see ch. xiii, 
sec. 4). 

Still more remarkable is the counterpart to this social 
dogma j namely, that every child resembles its father. 
Such similarity is always assumed and affirmed to exist. 
Where it is really found, even to a small degree, constant 
attention is drawn to it as to a thing which is nice, good 
and right. It was often pointed out to me how strongly 
one or other of the sons of To'uluwa, the chief of Omara- 
kana, resembled his father, and the old man was especially 
proud of the more or less imaginary resemblance between 



himself and his youngest son, Dipapa (see pi. 41 ). Espe- 
cially were the five favourite sons of himself and Kadam- 
wasila each said to be exactly like his father. When 
I pointed out that this similarity to the father implied 
similarity to each other, such a heresy was indignantly 
repudiated. There are also definite customs which em- 
body this dogma of patrilineal similarity. Thus, after 
a man's death, his kinsmen and friends will come from 
time to time to visit his children in order to "see his face 
in theirs." They will give them presents, and sit looking 
at them and wailing. This is said to soothe their insides 
because they have seen once more the likeness of the dead. 
How do the natives reconcile the inconsistency of this 
dogma with the matrilineal system? When questioned 
they will say: "Yes, maternal kinsmen are the same flesh, 
but similar faces they have not." When you inquire 
again why it is that people resemble their father, who is 
a stranger and has nothing to do with the formation of 
their body, they have a stereotyped answer: "It coagulates 
the face of the child j for always he lies with her, they 
sit together." The expression kuliy to coagulate, to 
mould, was used over and over again in the answers which 
I received. This is a statement of the social doctrine 
concerning the influence of the father over the physique 
of the child, and not merely the personal opinion of my 
informants. One of my informants explained it to me 
more exactly, turning his open hands to me palm up- 
wards: "Put some soft mash {sesa) on it, and it will 
mould like the hand. In the same manner, the husband 
remains with the woman and the child is moulded." An- 



other man told me: "Always we give food from our hand 
to the child to eat, we give fruit and dainties, we give 
betel nut. This makes the child as it is." 

I also discussed the existence of half-castes with my 
informants, children of white traders married to native 
women. I pointed out that some look much more like 
natives than like Europeans. This, again, they simply 
denied, maintaining stoutly that all these children have 
white men's faces, and giving this as another proof of 
their doctrine. There was no way of shaking their con- 
viction, or of diminishing their dislike of the idea that 
anyone can resemble his mother or her people, an idea 
condemned by the tradition and the good manners of the 

Thus we see that an artificial physical link between 
father and child has been introduced, and that on one 
important point it has overshadowed the matrilineal bond. 
For physical resemblance is a very strong emotional tie 
between two people, and its strength is hardly reduced 
by its being ascribed, not to a physiological, but to a soci- 
ological cause — that of continued association between hus- 
band and wife. 

I have to record one more important assertion of 
father-right in this matrilineal society, one of a purely 
social and economic nature. That there is a compromise 
between the two principles of matriliny and paternal 
influence in social and economic matt?ers, we have already 
seen 5 but it is worth while to restate this briefly here, and 
to mention its most peculiar feature. 

The matrilineal principle is maintained by the more 



rigid rules of tribal law. These rules decree absolutely 
that a child must belong to the family, sub-clan, and clan 
of its mother. Less absolutely but still very strictly, they 
regulate the membership of a village community and the 
office of magician. They also assign all inheritance of 
land, privileges and material goods to mother-line. But 
here a number of customs and usages allow, if not an 
evasion, at least a compromise and modification of tribal 
law. By these usages, a father can, for his own lifetime, 
grant the right of citizenship in his village to his son 
and bestow upon him the usufruct of canoes, lands, cere- 
monial privileges, and magic. By cross-cousin marriage, 
combined with matrilocal residence, he can even secure 
all these things to his son for life. 

All this we know already, but here we have td note one 
more important difference in the transmission of material 
goods and privileges, as from maternal uncle to a nephew 
on the one hand, and a father to a son on the other. A 
man is obliged to relinquish all his possessions and offices 
to his younger brother or maternal nephew at death. But 
usually the younger man wants to possess some of these 
things during his senior's lifetime 3 and it is customary for 
a maternal uncle to part with a portion of his gardens 
or some of his magic while he is still living. But in such 
cases he has to be paid for it, and the payment is often 
quite substantial. It is called by the special technical 
name pokala.^ 

When a man gives any of these things to his son, on 

1 This word has more than one meaning: it denotes several types of 
economic transaction. Compare ArQonauts of the Western Pacific, index 
s.v. pokala. 



the other hand, he does it of his free will, and quite 
gratuitously. Thus, a maternal nephew, or younger 
brother, has the right to claim his share, and always re- 
ceives it if he gives the first instalment of the fokala. 
The son relies on his father's goodwill, which, as a rule, 
works very effectively on his behalf, and he receives all 
the gifts for nothing. The man who has the right to the 
things has to pay for them, while the man who receives 
them without the sanction of tribal law gets them gratis. 
Of course he has to return them, at least in part, after his 
father's death j but the use and enjoyment he has had 
of material benefits remain his, while the magic he cannot 

The natives explain this anomalous state of things by 
the father's partiality to his children, which, in its turn, 
is accounted for by his relation to their mother. The 
natives say that his free gifts to the children are a reward 
for the free cohabitation which he enjoys with his wife.^ 

1 1 have dealt with the relation between tribal law and the usages 
which are formed in reaction to it in Crime and Custom, esp. pt. ii, ch. iii. 




We had to make a digression into the domain of soci- 
ology, led thereto by the Trobriand beliefs concerning 
procreation and spiritual incarnation and the great in- 
fluence which these exert upon family and kinship. Let 
us now resume our consecutive account by considering the 
course of pregnancy and childbirth. In the first two 
sections of this chapter I shall describe one observance 
which is of outstanding interest to the ethnologist: the 
special public ceremonial performed when a woman is 
passing through her first pregnancy. The succeeding two 
sections will be devoted to the customs associated with 
childbirth and maternity in general. 


Pregnancy is first diagnosed by the swelling of the 
breasts and the darkening of the nipples. At this time 
a woman may dream that the spirit of one of her kins- 
women brings her the child from the other world to be 
reincarnated. If during the next two or three moons her 
menstrual flow makes no appearance, then, say the natives, 
it is certain that she has become pregnant (isuma). 
Native embryology teaches that four moons after the ap- 



pearance of the haloma in the dream the abdomen begins 
to swell 3 and when this stage in a first pregnancy is 
reached, the relatives of the mother-to-be take steps to 
provide her with certain ceremonial garments prescribed 
by custom 5 a plain white fibre petticoat, and a long cloak 
{saykeulo) of the same material (pi. 42). These will be 
given to her in about the fifth moon of her pregnancy 
with a great deal of ceremony, and she will wear them on 
that occasion for a month or two and also after she has 
given birth to the child. This ceremony is never per- 
formed for an igamugwa^ a woman who has already been 
pregnant, but only for an igava^Uy a woman who conceives 
for the first time. 

As with every other ceremonial occasion in the Trobri- 
ands, this presentation of the fibre cloak has its place in 
a definite sociological scheme. The duties connected with 
it are distributed among certain relatives who subsequently 
receive an appropriate payment. The task of making the 
robes and of offering them to the igava^u falls to the 
female relatives of the girPs father — the women whom 
she calls generically tahugu — and the lead is taken by 
the father's own sister. We have already seen on an 
earlier occasion of great importance in the life of a girl, 
namely when her marriage is about to be concluded, that 
it is the father, and not her official guardian, the mother's 
brother, whose consent is decisive and who has to super- 
vise the whole affair. Again, in this later crisis, it is the 
father and his matrilineal kinswomen who take the active 
part. The father summons his sister, his mother, and his 
xiiece, and says to them: "Well, come to my house and cut 



the saykeulo for your niece, my daughter." The father's 
sister then takes the lead, and rouses as many of her kins- 
women as possible to help in the work. They come to- 
gether, talk the matter over, and arrange when they will 
begin. The saykeulo is always made in front of the 
father's house, or, if he be a chief, on the central place 
of his village. The women sit down in a wide circle round 
a heap of banana leaves to which every worker has con- 
tributed several bundles, frayed ready for use. Then the 
pieces are bound together, amid continuous chatter and a 
hubbub of voices and laughter. It is an exclusively fe- 
male gathering, and no man with any sense of decency 
and etiquette would come near. Four garments have to 
be made: two long mantles and two skirts. One of the 
mantles is to be worn at the initial celebration of first 
pregnancy and the second when the mother first appears 
in public after her confinement 3 the two skirts are also for 
use after the birth. The four garments can be easily 
finished at one sitting, though a second is sometimes 
necessary when there are too many gossips present for the 
work to go quickly. When the garments are finished, 
usually in the afternoon, the workers pass to the magical 
part of the performance. For, as always in the making 
of a really important object, or one which has to be en- 
dowed with definite properties and powers, magic is an 
essential part of the process of production. 

I had good opportunities for studying the magic of 
pregnancy robes. I observed and photographed the rites 
in progress at the village of Tukwa'ukwa, and in the same 
village I obtained the formula of saykeulo magic, as it 



was then recited, also I discussed the ceremonial with the 
actual performers, as well as with women in other lo- 

The rite is simple, but interesting, for it reveals the 
native ideas of the nature of magical force and of the 
way in which it operates. A mat is spread on the ground 
and the four pregnancy garments are placed upon it (pi. 
43 ) . The women have brought with them the fleshy lower 
parts of certain creamy white leaves, which come from a 
lily plant bearing a snow-white flower. These are cut 
into pieces (pi. 44) and strewn over the robes. Those 
among the robe-makers who know the formula — and 
there are always several of them — kneel round the 
bundle, and, bending over it, thrust their faces right into 
the fibre stufiF (pi. 43), so that it may be well permeated 
with the breath which carries the magic words : 

"O bwaytuva (a bird similar to the reef heron but 
with quite white plumage), hover over Waybeva (the 
creek of Tukwa'ukwa village), swoop down to Mkikiya 
(the waterhole of the village) ! O bwaytuva y hover over 
Mkikiya, swoop down to Waybeva!" 

This is the exordium {u*ula)^ the opening part of the 
magical formula, in which, as we see, a white bird is in- 
vited to hover over the bathing place and the principal 
water supply of the village.^ Then follows the main part 
{ta'pwana) of the spell. In this the phrase bwaytuva 
ikata — "the bwaytuva bird sharpens" (i.e. makes brilliant 
or resplendent) — is repeated with various words, each of 

1 For the structure and general characteristics of the Trobriand spells 
see Argonauts of the Western Pacific, ch. xviii. 



which describes a part of the pregnancy robe. In the 
Trobriandsj as no doubt in every other society, each detail 
of a lady's garment is carefully defined and has its 
specific name. These are enumerated and coupled one 
by one with the leading phrase. Thus the formula con- 
tains a series of such incantations as "the hwaytuva bird 
makes resplendent the top hem of the robe," "the hway- 
tuva bird makes resplendent the fringe of the robe," and 
so on. Then the same phrase is repeated with various 
words describing parts of the body: "the hwaytuva bird 
makes resplendent the head of my tahu (my brother's 
child)," "the hwaytuva makes resplendent the nose of my 
brother's child" j and so on to the cheeks, the chest, the 
belly, the groins, the buttocks, the thighs, the knees, the 
calves, and the feet. The formula thus enumerates every 
part of the body with a consistent pedantry characteristic 
of Trobriand magic. The end-part {dogina) runs thus: 
"No more is it her head, her head is like the pallor 
before dawnj no more is it her face, her face is like the 
white sprouts of a young leaf of the areca plant 5 praise 
her by robbing Jher house! praise her by demanding a 
tilewaH (flattery gift)!" 

This formula expresses, in terms of magic, a wish to 
improve the personal appearance of the wearer of the 
robes, and it is especially associated with the whiteness 
of her skin. A bird of beautiful form and of brilliantly 
white plumage is invoked at the beginning, and its name 
acts as the most powerful charm in the principal part of 
the formula. Its association with the names of the creek 
and the waterhole in which the pregnant woman has ta 



bathe and wash, may possess the power to whiten her skin. 

The conclusion anticipates the result, a form very 
common in the Trobriand spells: the face of the pregnant 
woman becomes pallid like the white sky before dawn, and 
like the young sprouts of areca. The last two sentences 
of the formula refer to the curious custom which allows 
anyone who gives flattery or praise after a remarkable 
achievement or performance and removes a piece of 
decoration as a pledge, to demand a special gift, tile^d*L 
In the case of a still more remarkable achievement, the 
lucky man who is to gain by it may have to see all his 
belongings on which the members of the community can 
lay hand kwaykwaya — that is, "taken away as expression 
of admiration." The remarkable achievement thus fore- 
shadowed in the first pregnancy rites is the resplendent 
whiteness of the pregnant woman's skin. 

From another village — Omarakana — I obtained the 
initial fragment of the magic used there by certain women. 
In this formula also a bird is addressed: 

"O white pigeon, come, lull our pregnancy cloak to 
sleep. I shall go and lull your egg to sleep." 

The pigeon invoked is notable for the whiteness of its 
plumage and of its egg's shell. The "lulling" of the 
pregnancy cloak refers, it is said, to the child to be born, 
whose skin should also be made white. We shall have 
to speak at some length about this fundamental idea of 
whitening the skin which underlies the pregnancy cere- 

In their general character, the proceedings are similar 
to most rites in the Trobriands. The women finish the 



robe and then, in very much the same business-like 
manner, go on to the magic. The white lily leaves are 
cut by one of them immediately after the robe is finished 
(pi. 44), and the garment is spread on the mat by another. 
While the magic is being recited (pi. 43), no disturbing 
noises are allowed, but neither is anyone excluded 3 the 
onlookers adopt no special attitude, nor have they any 
observances to keep. After the women have impregnated 
the robes with the magical virtues of the spell, they beat 
the bundle with their palms. This increases the garments' 
power of imparting whiteness to the wearer. The tap- 
ping is conceived as the "waking up of the garment." 
The rite is called yuvisila saykeulo^ the breathing over of 
the pregnancy robe. The four robes, together with the 
white cut leaves strewn over them, are now covered with 
another mat, so that the magic may not evaporate, and 
the whole bundle is placed in the house of the principal 
tahulay the father's sister. 


On the day following the making and charming of the 
robe, the actual investment of the pregnant woman takes 
place. With this is associated her public bathing and 
washing and her magical adornment. I shall describe 
the ceremony as I saw it in the village of Tukwa'ukwa, 
where, in May, 191 8, I and my friend, the late Mr. 
B. Hancock, were able to take photographs of it (pis. 43, 
44, 45, 46, 49, and 50). My friend had also photo- 



graphed and recorded the ceremony about a year before 
when it had taken place in the same village (pis. 42, 47, 
and 48). In the course of my narrative, I shall indicate 
such local differences as obtain between the coastal vil- 
lages, of which Tukwa'ukwa is one, and the inland set- 
tlements, distant from the seashore. 

Very early in the morning, the whole village, or at 
least all its female inhabitants, are astir and preparing 
for the spectacle. The tabula (father's sister and other 
paternal relatives) forgather in the father's hut, where 
the pregnant woman awaits them. When all is ready, 
the prospective mother proceeds to the seashore, walking 
between two of her tabula. 

From the inland villages not too far distant from the 
sea, the procession would also go down to the beach j but 
those villages far enough away to consider themselves 
"inland people" perform the pregnancy bath at the water- 
hole where they usually wash. If the woman is of high 
rank, she will be carried all the way to the shore or to the 
waterhole. In the ceremony, only women take an active 

Tukwa'ukwa lies right on a tidal inlet of the lagoon, 
and the woman was carried to the beach by her female 
tabula. Since this is a purely female ceremony, good 
manners indicate that no man should participate, and men 
would not enter the water to look at the performance. 
There is no specific taboo, however, nor were any objec- 
tions raised to my presence. 

Arrived at the water's edge, the women arrange them- 
selves in two rows, facing each other, and join hands with 



their opposite partners crosswise, in the manner called by 
children "queen's chair." Over this living bridge the 
pregnant woman walks, holding on by the women's heads, 
and as she advances, the rear couple move to the front, 
constantly extending the bridge. Thus they go some dis- 
tance into the water, the pregnant woman walking dry 
foot on the arms of her companions (pi. 45). At a cer- 
tain point she is allowed to jump into the water. Then 
they all begin to play with one another, the prospective 
miother being always the centre of the game. Her com- 
panions splash water over her, and duck and drench her 
to the utmost, all in a spirit of exuberant good-natured 
playfulness (pi. 46). It is the duty of the tabula to see 
that the woman is well washed during the ceremonial 
bath. "We rub her skin with our hands, we rub her sur- 
face, we cleanse her." 

The drenching and washing being thoroughly done, 
she is brought on to the shore and placed on a mat. Al- 
though on most occasions she is carried by her relatives 
to the beach, from this moment she has to be completely 
isolated from the earth, and must not touch the soil with 
her feet. She is placed on a coconut mat and her tabula 
(father's maternal relatives) proceed to make her toilet 
very carefully and with an elaborate magic ritual. This 
magic of beauty has certain affinities with the ceremonial 
performed by men during the kula expeditions (see Ar- 
gonauts of the Western Pacific y ch. xiii, sec. i), though 
the spells of men and women differ.^ It is, on the other 

II have stated in the above-mentioned work, on p. 336, that "This 
branch of Kula magic has two counterparts in the other magical lore of 
the Trobrianders. One of them is the love magic, through which people 



hand, identical in spell and rite with the beauty magic 
performed by women on men at great dancing festivals j 
in fact, the spells which I obtained at the pregnancy rites 
and which are given later in this book, are used on either 
occasion (see ch. xi, sees. 2-4). 

After her bath, the pregnant woman has first to be 
rubbed and dried. This is done ritually. Some coconut 
husk fibre, which is kept ready at hand, is charmed over 
with the kaykakaya spell by the tabula (father's sister) 
and the skin of the young woman is rubbed.^ Then some 
of the soft spongy leaves of the wageva plant, which 
usually serve the native as a natural towel, are charmed 
with another formula and the woman is rubbed again. 
After her skin has been thoroughly dried, the pregnant 
woman is anointed with charmed coconut oil, and the 
attendants put a new brightly coloured fibre skirt on her, 
while the wet bathing skirt is removed from underneath. 
This festive skirt is not one of those recently made for 
the pregnancy, nor is its putting on associated with any 
magical rite. But a purely magical action follows: the 

are rendered attractive and irresistible. Their belief in these spells is 
such that a man would always attribute all his success in love to their 
efficiency. Another type closely analogous to the beauty magic of the 
Kula is the specific beauty magic practised before big dances and fes- 
tivities." This statement is slipshod, in that the real counterparts of 
mnuasila {kula magic) of beauty are the magic performed on dancers and 
described here in ch. xi, and the magic of pregnancy with which we are 
dealing just now. The three forms, miuasila, pregnancy rites and festive 
beauty magic are, in fact, akin to each other, though only pregnancy 
magic and the festive ritual are the same in spell and rite, while the 
mnvasila resembles both only in aim and doctrine. Love magic, though 
presenting some similarities, not only differs profoundly in rite and spell, 
but is based on a special native doctrine. (Cf. below, ch. xi.) 

1 For the text of this and the subsequent spells here mentioned, see 
below, ch. xi, sec. 3 and 4. The spells of mivasila, quoted on pp. 337-342 
of Argonauts, should also be consulted. 



face of the young woman is stroked with a mother-of- 
pearl shell while one of the tabula mutters a spell of 
beauty (see ch. xi, sec. 4). The three acts of the cere- 
monial so far described are supposed to make her skin 
smooth, clear, and soft, and her appearance generally 
beautiful. Several successive stages of personal decoration 
follow, each performed in a ritual manner. First, mut- 
tering a magical formula, a tabula decorates the prospec- 
tive mother's mouth and face with red paint. After that 
black paint is applied to the face with another spell. 
Then the hair is combed while yet another formula is 
recited. Red hibiscus flowers are fastened in her hair, 
and aromatic leaves with charms breathed into them 
thrust into her armlets. After this the young woman is 
considered to be fully arrayed. 

All this ritual dressing and adornment is associated 
with beauty magic, which custom and tradition impose at 
this stage but which stands in no direct connection with 
pregnancy or the pregnancy robes. Only when this 
beauty magic has been performed may the proper preg- 
nancy rite, the investment with the long robe, be car- 
ried out. The tabula place one of the two saykeulo (preg- 
nancy robes) on the young woman's shoulders, and once 
more recite the formula used in the making of it, breath- 
ing the charm right into the robe (see pi. 47). It is also 
customary at this point, though not imperative, to recite 
over her some magic against the dangers of pregnancy 
and childbirth, a magic prophylactic against the special 
evil of sorcery, which is always dreaded at a confinement 
(see next section). 



Throughout this ritual the prospective mother has been, 
standing on a mat, for, as we have already said, her bare 
feet must not touch the soil after the bath. Now, dressed 
in full dress and covered with the long fibre mantle, she 
is lifted up by two of her tabula (pis. 48 and 49) and 
carried to her father's house, where a small platform has 
been erected on which she is set down (pi. 50). It is 
customary for a woman of chieftain's rank to go, not to 
her father's, but to her maternal uncle's house, and there 
to remain seated on a high platform. 

Upon this platform the woman has to stay for the 
rest of the day. During that time she must remain prac- 
tically motionless, she must not speak except to ask for 
food or drink, and even this she ought if possible to do 
by signs. She must not touch food with her hands 5 it is 
put into her mouth by her tabula. Her immobility is only 
broken from time to time that she may wash her face, 
her arms and shoulders, and rub her skin. For this pur- 
pose water is either brought to her in a wooden basin by 
her husband, or she is carried by two women back to the 
water's edge, and there she washes standing on a mat. 
After sunset she is allowed to retire to her father's house 
to rest, but the next day she has to return to the platform 
and there resume her seated immobility, and observe all 
her taboos as on the first day. This is repeated for from 
three to five days, according to the rank and importance 
of the woman and of her husband. Nowadays, with the 
relaxation of all customs, one day is often considered long 

When the ceremonial vigil on the platform is over, the 



woman may return for a few more months to her hus- 
band's house J or she may go to the house of her father 
or of her maternal uncle. To one of these she must in 
any case repair for her confinement. She dresses in the 
saykeulo (pregnancy mantle) until it is worn out. As a 
rule it lasts for about two months, so that it has to be 
discarded some two months before confinement. 

There is more than one important feature associated 
with the first pregnancy ritual. As always in the Tro- 
briands, ceremonial services rendered by a certain class of 
relative must be repaid by the actual, that is maternal, 
kinsmen of the person served. In this case the work, the 
magic, and the ritual are performed by the female rela- 
tives of the father. In the distribution of food {sagali)^ 
which immediately follows the ceremony, it is the moth- 
er's brother, the brother, and the other maternal kinsmen 
of the young woman, who do the distributing. If she is 
a woman of small importance, this distribution takes place 
before her father's house. But if she, or her father or 
husband, be a person of high rank, it is carried out on the 
central place of the village. The procedure is the same 
as in the mortuary and other ceremonial distributions.'' 
The food is divided into heaps and every heap is allotted 
to a single person, his or her name being called out in a 
loud voice. After the first pregnancy rites, each one of 
the tabula who has been working at the robe and taking 
part in the ceremony receives a heap of food. Besides 
this, the givers of the sagali (distribution) usually select 

1 See Argonauts of the Western Pacific, pp. 182-3, and references in 
Index, s.v. sagali, and below, ch. xi, sec. 2. 



some specially large and fine yams, or a bunch of bananas 
or areca nut, and carry the gift to the house of the pa- 
ternal aunt, and perhaps to those of one or two other 
relatives as well. Such additional payment is called 

A minor but very interesting ceremonial is associated 
with this distribution. The father of the pregnant woman 
— ^who has nothing to do with the sagali — chooses some 
specially good food and carries it, on his own account, to 
certain women who are known to possess a form of black 
magic of which pregnant women stand in great fear. 
"Black" this magic is, literally as well as metaphorically, 
for by addressing the mwanita (black millepede), the sor- 
ceress is able to make a pregnant woman's skin black, as 
black as the worm itself. The father's gift, which is 
brought to the house door and belongs to the class called 
katubwadela hwala (house-closing-gift), is intended to 
forestall and arrest any evil intentions which the sorceress 
might harbour. As one of my informants put it: "That 
their anger might come to an end, that they might not 
perform the evil magic that blackens the skin of that 
woman, that pregnant one." 

This brings us back to the question of the idea under- 
lying the first pregnancy ceremony, and of its aims and 
purpose. If the average Trobriander is asked the reason 
or cause, u^uluy of a custom, the usual ready answer is one 
of the stereotyped phrases, tokunabogwo ayguri ("of old 
it has been ordained"), Laha^ lay ma ("it came from 
Laba'i," the mythological centre of the district), tom- 
wayay tomwayay ivagise ("the ancients have arranged it"). 
In other words, the custom has in their eyes a traditional 



sanction 3 and every respectable person among savages, as 
well as among ourselves, has, of course, to do a thing 
because it is done and because it always has been done. 
But I obtained a certain number of special reasons for 
this particular usage besides the general one. Some main- 
tain that the ceremony makes for a quick and easy birth j 
"for," as they say, "the playing about in the water loosens 
the child in the womb." Some say that it assures the 
health of the mother and of the baby 3 and yet others that 
it is necessary for the proper formation of the foetus. 
One woman gave as the reason for the ceremony, that the 
spirit child was said to enter the woman while she was in 
the ritual bath, but her statement was not confirmed by 
anyone else, and I consider it spurious. 

But the prevalent opinion of the natives is that the 
ceremony is to whiten the skin of the woman. This 
opinion wp:6 expressed to me by my best informants among 
the mer., as well as by several women with whom I dis- 
cussed the matter. It is also in harmony with the text of 
the magical formula and with the ritual actions, as well 
as with the nature of the central symbol, the pregnancy 
mantle. The use of the saykeulo, as my informants 
pointed out, is to keep the sun off the skin. The woman 
has to wear it after the ceremonial bathing, and when 
she has had to discard it she should keep indoors as much 
as possible until the confinement. This idea of whiteness 
as a thing to be desired is also expressed in the main 
ceremony of first bathing, and in the subsequent ritual 
washings, which the pregnant woman continues until her 
confinement and after it. 

It is impossible to get beyond the idea that whiteness 



as such is desirable. One thing is clear, however. Al- 
though whiteness of the skin is usually regarded as a 
personal attraction, in this case the woman is not made 
white in order to be erotically seductive. When I asked 
why a pregnant woman must try to make her skin white, 
I received the answer: "I£ a woman does not wash and 
anoint, and if her skin is black, people will say this woman 
is very bad, she has men in her mind, she does not look 
after her confinement." Again they would say, explain- 
ing the motive for the whole ceremony: "This is done 
to prepare her skin for the confinement washings j and to 
make her desire to be white. Thus we see when her skin 
is white that she does not think about adultery." From 
another informant I received the statement: "The say- 
keulo covers her up completely: breasts, legs, backj only 
her face you see. It makes her skin white, it shows she 
does not have connection with men." Thus the woman 
is made white and beautiful by all this magic. Yet she 
must hide her charms, she must not attract other men, 
and she has to keep more stringently faithful than at any 
other time of her wedded life. Nay, as will be seen, she 
must even abstain from lawful intercourse with her hus- 


In the foregoing section the ceremony of first preg- 
nancy was described. Now we proceed to the customs of 
pregnancy and confinement in general. The ritual bath- 
ing, the ceremonial investment with the pregnancy man- 



tie, the magic o£ whiteness and of beauty, are only per- 
formed before the first child is born. But making the 
skin as white as possible by ordinary means, including the 
use of the mantle, is a feature of every pregnancy. On 
subsequent occasions the mantle is made by the woman 
herself or it may be given by a tabula and repaid by her, 
but as a private transaction only. 

Some five months after conception, that is at the time 
of the ritual bathing in a first pregnancy, the prospective 
mother begins to observe certain food restrictions. She 
must abstain from what the natives call kavaylu^a (deli- 
cacies which consist mainly of fruit) . The banana, the 
mango, the malay apple, the South Sea almond, the paw- 
paw, the bread-fruit, and the natu fruit are forbidden to 
her. This taboo has reference to the future health of the 
child. "If she eat kavaylu^ay the child will have a big 
belly 5 it will be full of excrement and will soon die." 
The diet of a pregnant woman is henceforth reduced to 
the staple vegetable food {kaulo)j that is yams, taro, na- 
tive peas, sweet potatoes, and other produce of the gar- 
den. She is also allowed to eat meat and fish, but she 
must abstain from certain kinds of the latter. The fish 
which she is forbidden to eat are such species as live in 
the submarine holes of the coral. The natives say that 
just as it is difficult to haul these fish out of their hiding 
places, so the baby would not easily be brought forth. 
Fish with sharp, pointed and poisonous fins, which are on 
that account dangerous to the fishermen, are taboo to the 
pregnant woman. If she were to eat any of them the 
child would be ill-tempered and constantly wailing. As 



pregnancy progresses and the woman becomes big, sexual 
intercourse must be abandoned, for, as the natives say, 
"the penis would kill the child." This taboo is rigorously 

Otherwise the pregnant woman leads a normal life 
almost up to the time of her confinement. She works in 
the garden, fetches water and firewood, and cooks the 
food for the household. She has but to shield herself 
from the sun by wearing the saykeulo (pregnancy man- 
tle), wash frequently, and anoint herself with coconut 
oil. Only towards the close of pregnancy when the first 
saykeulo is worn out and discarded, must she keep out of 
the sun and therefore abandon some of the heavier work. 

As in a first pregnancy, so in all the subsequent ones, 
the woman, about the fifth month, has to take up her 
abode in her father's house and she may remain there or 
she may return again to her husband's house until some 
time before the confinement, when she invariably goes to 
the house of her parents or maternal uncle. This re- 
moval to the father's or mother's brother's house is a rule 
observed in every childbirth, the woman leaving her hus- 
band's house in about the seventh or eighth month of her 

This custom is associated with the strong fear of the 
dangers which surround a woman in childbed, and which 
are conceived to be due to a form of evil magic, which is 
called vatula bam (the chilling or paralysing of the 
uterus). And again, in the face of this great danger, we 
see once more the interesting recrystallization of kinship 
ties, the shifting of responsibility and solidarity. Here, 



again, only the actual maternal kinsmen and kinswomen 
are, in the eyes of custom and tribal law, regarded as re- 
liable. The woman has to go to her father's house, for 
that is also her mother's home, and her mother is the 
proper person to look after her and the baby. The 
mother also is concerned in warding off danger with the 
help of her male relatives, who forgather at the house 
of the birth and see to it that a proper watch {yausa) is 
kept over the lying-in. Such a watch, kept by men armed 
with spears who sit all the night long over fires and guard 
the house and its every approach, is considered the main 
defence and precaution against sorcerers who, surrounded 
by nocturnal birds, are supposed to prowl about, attempt- 
ing to cast the valuta bam magic. Primarily, it is the duty 
of the husband to carry out the yausa^ but in this he is 
never trusted alone, and the male relatives of the preg- 
nant woman not only assist but also control him. The in- 
teresting thing about this form of sorcery is that it does not 
only exist in the fear and superstition of the natives, but 
that it is actually attempted and carried out by male sor- 
cerers. The formula is recited, the house approached, and 
the evil charm cast according to the prescribed rites.^ I 
have even obtained the spells of this magic and the cura- 
tive counter spells, but as this question essentially belongs 
to the subject of sorcery, I shall reserve it for a future 

When her time approaches, the parental house is made 

^ Cf. the difference between the purely imaginary witchcrart of the 
flying women (yoyo'va) and the sorcery really carried out by the male 
wizards {bivaga'u), Argonauts of the Western Pacific, ch. ii, sec. vii, and 
ch. X, sec. i ; and ch. ii of this book 



ready. The father and all the male inmates have to 
leave, while some female kinswomen come in to assist the 
mother. When the first pains are felt, the woman is 
made to squat on the raised bedstead with a small fire 
burning under it. This is done "to make her blood 
liquid," "to make the blood flow." At the critical mo- 
ment the woman in labour and her attendants may repair 
to the bush, where confinement is sometimes allowed to 
take place, but more usually they remain in the house. 

About the actual travail, I have been able to obtain 
only the following information. The woman in labour is 
seated on a mat placed on the ground, with her legs apart 
and her knees raised. Leaning back, with her hands on 
the ground behind her, she rests her weight on her arms. 
At her back stands her sister or some other close maternal 
relative, who bears heavily on the labouring woman's 
shoulders, pressing down and even thumping her vigor- 
ously. As the natives say: "This woman presses on the 
parturient one so that the baby may fall out quickly." 
The mother of the woman in travail waits to receive the 
baby. Sometimes she catches hold of her daughter's 
knees. A mat is placed in position, and on this the newly 
born is received. I was told that the baby is allowed to 
come to birth by means of natural efforts only, and that 
it is never pulled out or manipulated. "The child will 
fall on to the mat, there it lies, then we take it. We do 
not take hold of it before." The parturient woman tries 
to help on the process by stopping her breath and so 
bearing down on the abdomen. 

If the labour is very hard they ascribe the fact, of 



course, to the evil magic o£ the valuta ham and they sum- 
mon someone who knows the vlvlsa (curative formula) to 
counteract this evil. This is recited over the aromatic 
leaves of the kwebila plant, and the body of the woman 
is rubbed with them. Or else the charmed leaves are 
placed on her head and then thumped with the fist. Only 
in the most difficult cases and when the vivisa has proved 
ineffective would the child be manipulated, and even then, 
from what I gathered, very timidly and incompetently. 
If the afterbirth does not come out in due course, a stone 
is tied to the mother's end of the navel string. The 
vivisa (curative formula) is then recited over it, and the 
woman made tc\ stand up. If that does not help, they 
are at their wit's end, and the woman is doomed, as they 
do not know how to extract the afterbirth by manipula- 
tion. The natives were very much astonished when they 
saw how Dr. Bellamy, who for several years had been 
medical officer in the Trobriands, used to remove the 

Some three days after the birth, one of the tabula 
(paternal kinswomen) of the mother of the new-born 
child heats her fingers at a fire and kneads off the re- 
maining piece of the navel string near to the baby's ab- 
domen. This and the afterbirth are buried in the ground 
within the garden enclosure. Underlying the custom is 
a vague idea that it will make the new-born a good gar- 
dener, that it will "keep his mind in the garden." After 
the removal of the umbilical cord, the child may, though 

1 This information I received independently from Dr. Bellamy, at that 
time Assistant Resident Magistrate and Medical Officer of the district^ 
and from the natives. 



it need not, be carried out of the house. The mother has 
to remain for a month or so confined within the parental 
hut. Soon after the delivery, a string is twisted by the 
tabula and tied round the mother's chest. Some magic 
is associated with this, but unfortunately I never learnt 
what it was nor ascertained the meaning of the ceremony. 


Mother and baby spend the greater part of their time 
during the first month on one of the raised bedsteads with 
a small fire underneath. This is a matter of hygiene, as 
the natives consider such baking and smoking to be very 
beneficial for the health, and a sort of prophylactic 
against black magic. No men are allowed into the house, 
for, since the woman baked over the fire is usually naked, 
no male should enter 3 but there are no supernatural sanc- 
tions for the custom, nor is any serious harm done if the 
taboo should be broken. After a month or so a miagic 
is performed called vageda kayfwakova; flowers of the 
white lily are burned with some dry wood, while the 
charm is spoken, and the woman is covered with the 
smoke of the smouldering faggot. This is done on two 
days in succession, and is supposed to make her skin still 
whiter. I did not obtain the formula of this magic. On 
the third day, the tabula ritually wash the young mother, 
and rub her skin with leaves charmed by the beauty spell 
used in the corresponding rite during the first pregnancy 



The woman then goes out with the baby and makes the 
round of the village, receiving from friends and her 
father's relatives small gifts of food called va^otu. After 
she has finished the round, there is a mimic driving home 
{ibutusi) of her by the tabula (her maternal aunt and 
other relatives of the same ci^ss\ and here she has to re- 
main for another month in seclusion. 

During this time husband and wife may only speak 
together through the door and glance at each other now 
and then. On no account must they eat together or even 
partake of the same food. Sexual intercourse between 
them is strictly taboo for a much longer time, at the least 
until the child can walk. But the stricter rule is to abstain 
from intercourse until it is weaned — that is, some two 
years after its birth — and this stricter rule is said always 
to be observed by men in polygamous households. The 
husband, even one who has several wives, must abstain 
from all conjugal or extraconjugal intercourse until the 
baby and its mother go out for the first time. A breach 
of any of these rules is said to bring about the death of 
the child. In the case of illegitimate children also, if 
the mother copulates too soon, the child is sure to die. 

After the second seclusion, mother and child return to 
their own household, and the mother resumes her normal 
life, although much of her time is taken up with the 
baby. She wears a plain fibre skirt, two of which have 
been made for her by her tabula if this has been her first 
pregnancy. She also now wears the long mantle, saykeuloy 
the second of the two made for her by the tabula before 
the first pregnancy (pi. 51). If it is a second pregnancy, 


or if the baby is illegitimate, the skirt and the mantles 
are made by herself or privately by a relative, and are 
as a rule much shorter (see pi. 90). Also a young mother 
frequently wears a sort of maternity cap, called togebiy 
which is often made by twisting a small grass fibre petti- 
coat into a sort of turban/ Into her armlets she must 
insert a bundle of aromatic herbs {yana). 

The most important of the cares bestowed on the child 
is, of course, concerned with its feeding. Besides the 
mother's breast which, as I was told, but very seldom 
fails, the child is given other food almost from the first 
days. Taro, well boiled, is chewed by the mother or by 
some of her relatives, and the mash, called mememay is 
given to the infant. The natives think that the child 
would be too weak if it were restricted to its mother's 
milk. Chewed yams and fish are not given till much 
later, when the child is almost a year old. The child's 
head is smeared with coconut oil mixed with charcoal "to 
make the head strong" as the natives say. One measure 
of cleanliness is observed day after day from the first 
hours of the baby's life: it is bathed regularly in warm 
water, with which the mother also washes her own skin. 
A specially deep wooden platter, called kaykwaywosiy is 
used for this purpose. The water is warmed by throwing 
stones heated in the ashes into the platter. Thus a hot 
and somewhat alkaline water is prepared, and this daily 
washing, followed by an anointing with coconut oil, is 
said to keep the skin of the mother and child white. The 

1 Togebi is the general name for plaited discs or folded petticoats worn 
on the head as a support for baskets and other loads carried by women 
(cf. ch. i, sec. 3, and pi. 6). 



weaning of the child takes place long after birth, usually 
some two years or, as the natives put it, "when it is able 
to say clearly bakam ba/mom (I want to eat, I want to 

During the weaning the child is separated from the 
mother, and sleeps with its father or with its paternal 
grandmother. When it cries at night a dry breast is given 
to it, or some coconut milk. If it is fretful and loses 
condition, it is taken to some distant village where it has 
relatives, or from inland villages to the seaside, so that it 
may regain its normal health and good spirits. 

We have now brought the child up to the time when 
he will shortly join his playmates in the small children's 
world of the village. In a few years he will begin his 
own amorous life. Thus we have closed the cycle which 
runs through infantile love-making, youthful intrigues, 
settled liaison, marriage, and its results in the production 
and rearing of children. This cycle I have described in 
its main outline, giving special consideration to the socio- 
logical aspects as seen in prenuptial intercourse, marriage, 
kinship ideas, and the interplay of mother-right and pa- 
ternal influence. In the following chapters it will be 
necessary to describe certain side-issues and psychological 
aspects, concerned more particularly with the erotic life 
before marriage. 




We must now return to certain aspects of love-making, 
which had to be left out or barely touched upon in relat- 
ing the life history of the native. The facts described in 
chapter iii have shown us that, subject to certain restric- 
tions, everyone has a great deal of freedom and many 
opportunities for sexual experience. Not only need no 
one live with impulses unsatisfied, but there is also a wide 
range of choice and opportunity. 

But wide as are the opportunities of ordinary love- 
making for a Trobriander, they do not exhaust all the 
possibilities of erotic life. In addition, seasonal changes 
in village life and festive gatherings stimulate sexual in- 
terest and provide for its satisfaction. Such occasions, as 
a rule, lead to intrigues beyond the limits of the village 
community j they loosen old ties and establish new ac- 
quaintanceships j they bring about short passionate affairs, 
which sometimes develop into more stable attachments. 

Traditional usage allows, and even encourages, such 
extensions of ordinary erotic life. And yet we shall see 
that, though countenanced by custom and public opinion, 
they are felt to be an excess, to be something anomalous. 
Usually they produce a reaction, not in the community 
as a whole, but in the individuals offended by them.^ 

1 For a discussion of such licensed yet resented usages, see Crime and 
Custom, part ii. 


Some excesses — those, that is, which really deserve the 
name of orgiastic licence — are limited to one district 
alone, and are viewed by the other natives as quaint local 
anomalies j while those who practise them are proud, and 
at the same time ashamed of them. Even the common 
and outwardly decorous relaxations are considered as 
escapades and adventures, always to be planned in the 
penumbra of secrecy, and often resented, if not avenged, 
by the regular partners. 

It has seemed best to divide the description of native 
sexual life into two parts, and to treat these separately. 
The normal maturing of the sexual impulse and its issue 
in matrimony had to be dealt with first. The facts which 
illustrate how the impulse is given a wider range, how 
it strays beyond the local group of everyday acquaint- 
ances and leads athwart home-made intrigues, will be 
given in this and the following chapters. 

This division corresponds to the native point of view, 
and makes it possible to present the facts in a far truer 
perspective than if they were lumped together. But the 
two parts are closely connected, and the way in which 
they fit into each other will be evident in the account 
which follows. 

I shall begin with a description of those occasions which 
regularly, in the course of each year, stimulate erotic in- 
terest, and at the same time provide wider opportunities 
for its satisfaction. There are certain seasonal and pe- 
riodical games 5 there are arrangements for picnics, excur- 
sions, and bathing parties j there are customary festivities 
associated with the economic cycle, and finally there is the 
annual season of festivities. 




Throughout the year, there is a periodic increase in 
play and pleasure -seeking at full moon. When the two 
elements so desirable in the tropics, soft light and bracing 
freshness are combined, the natives fully respond: they 
stay up longer to talk, or to walk to other villages, or to 
undertake such enterprises as can be carried out by moon- 
light. Celebrations connected with travel, fishing, or 
harvesting, as well as all games and festivals, are held at 
the full moon. In the ordinary course of tribal life, as 
the moon waxes, the children, who always play in the 
evening, sit up later and band together to amuse them- 
selves on the central place of the village. Soon the young 
boys and girls join them, and, as the moon grows fuller, 
the maturer youth, male and female, is drawn into the 
circle of players. Gradually the smaller children are 
squeezed outj and the round games and competitive 
sports are carried on by youths and grown-ups. On spe- 
cially fine and cool nights of full moon, I have seen the 
whole population of a large village gathered on the cen- 
tral place, the active members taking part in the games, 
with the old people as spectators. 

The younger men and women, however, are the main 
players, and the games are associated with sex in more 
than one way. The close bodily contact, the influence 
of moonlight and shadow, the intoxication of rhythmic 
movement, the mirth and frivolity of play and ditty — 



all tend to relax constraint, and give opportunity for an 
exchange of declarations and for the arrangement of 
trysts. In this book we are chiefly concerned with the 
erotic element in games, but in order not to lose the right 
perspective, it must be realized that this is but one aspect 
of them. Children's play and adult games often contain 
no such element, and in none of them is it the only in- 
terest, or even the chief inducement to participation. 
Love of athletics, the need for exercise, competition, dis- 
play of skill and daring, aesthetic satisfaction and a sense 
of fun, are each quite as important as the sexual element. 
The games which are played on moonlit evenings on 
the central place of the village are perhaps the most im- 
portant of all. They usually begin with a round game 
of "ring-a-ring-a-roses" type, called Kasaysuya (pi. 52).^ 
Boys and girls join hands and sing, while they move first 
slowly and then, with the quickening rhythm of the chant, 
spin round faster and faster, until, tired out and giddy, 
they stop, rest, and begin again in the reverse direction. 
As the game progresses, and one ditty follows another, 
the excitement grows. The first ditty is one which begins 
with the words, ^^kasaysuya^ saysuya^^ referring to a bush 
after which the game is named. Each time they start on 
a new round, a new ditty is chanted. The rhythm in song 
and step is at first slow, grows rapidly quicker, and ends 
in a swift staccato repetition of the last syllables as the 

1 This and the following illustrations (pis. 52-6) were taken whilst the 
children and youths were demonstrating the details of the games. The 
actual performances take place always after nightfall, and could not be 
photographed. The difference consists mainly in the presence of spec- 
tators, who are not to be seen in these illustrations. 



players whirl round and round. Towards the end of the 
game usually the rhymes become rather ribald. 

These are examples of such kasaysuya ditties with 
sexual allusions: 


Taytulaviya, viya, taytulaheulay heula (repeated) 

furious taytu, stout taytu 

Kavakayviyakuy kwisi tau^a^u 

Enormous penis (of) men 

Isisuse wa bwayma. 

They sit in food-house. 

Toyatalaga fofu 

Fornicator excrement. 

Free Translation 

O, the rapidly growing taytu yams, O, the stout taytu 

Men with enormous penises sit on the food-house plat- 

(i.e. keep away from women) — they are pederasts! 


Imayase la kaykivi 

They bring his soliciting message (of) 

tokaka^u (repeated). 


Ifayki nakaka^u. 

He [she] declines widow. 



Ikaraboywa kwila tokaka^u. 

It remains idle penis (of) widower. 

Free Translation 

They brought her the invitation to lie with him from 

the widower — 
But the widow refused. 
So the widower's penis had to remain idle! 

This ditty, I was told, would be sung if a widower 
were present, especially if he were too enterprising in his 
amorous offers, or if he misdirected them. It would also 
be sung if a woman wanted to stimulate his interest and 
encourage him. 


Yokwamiga tau^a^u fniyawimi sayduwaku. 

You indeed men your pubic leaves duwaku piece. 

Saydukufiy kufi. 

Short piece, short. 

Galaga takakaya kukwpi. 

No indeed we fornicate short (things). 

Free Translation 

O men you use dtdfuoaku strips for your pubic leaves: 

They are short strips, far too short! 

Nothing so short will induce us to fornicate with you! 


Yokwamiga vivilaga midahemi siginanabuy 

You indeed women indeed your skirts (a flimsy leaf), 



SiginafatUy fatu, 

(Flimsy leaf) narrow, narrow. 

Galagay takakaya fatu. 

No indeed we fornicate narrow (holes). 

Free Translation 

O women, you use the siginanabu leaves for your skirts: 

They are narrow leaves. 

Nothing so narrow will induce us to penetrate you. 

The two chants are counterparts of one another, and 
show the typical kind of joke made about the dress of 
the other sex. My informant stated emphatically that 
they mean simply: ^^Gala takayta kaykukufi kwila — gala 
takayta kwayfatu wila,^ "We do not copulate (with one 
having) a short penis, we do not copulate (with one hav- 
ing) a narrow cunnus." 


Yokwamiga giyovila kaynufisi nunimiga. 

You indeed women of rank small your breasts indeed. 

Kaykawala mitasiga gweguyaga. 

Impressionable their eyes men of rank indeed. 

Kamilogi habawa^ 

Your copulating support earthen mound, 


your lime-pots 

hix)ey kwey kwe, 
(make) kwe, kwe, kwe. 



Free Translation 

O women of rank, your breasts are small indeed, 
But the eyes of men of rank are lecherous. 
You copulate on the ground, and while you do that, your 
lime-pots produce a rattling sound kuoey kwey kwe. 

Social games always begin with this rhythmic running 
in a circle. Other figure games follow, in several of 
which only two people participate. Thus, a boy will put 
his feet on one of the thighs of another boy or man, who, 
standing up and holding him by the hands, swings in a 
circle (pi. 53)5 or two boys sit facing each other with the 
soles of their feet together, get a good grip on a stick, 
held between them, and try to lift each other ofiF the 
ground. This is a form of "cock-fighting." Most of the 
games, however, are played by many people j sometimes 
they are very conventionalized and remote imitations of 
serious pursuits, and sometimes they represent the be- 
haviour of animals. Thus in "Dog's Tail," two rows of 
boys face each other, and move to left and right 5 in 
^^Rats" a row of boys squat and hop one after another 
(pi. 54); in "Cooking Pot," boys in the same position 
move slowly from one foot to the other 5 in "Fishing of 
Kuboya," boys advance in single file, the last one being 
caught by two who stand on either side with raised arms 
and let the others pass (pi. SS)* In this last we find the 
elements of our "Oranges and Lemons." More elabo- 
rate figures are enacted in "Stealing of the Bananas," 
*^The Parrot," and "The Fire." All these games with- 



out exception are accompanied by rhymes which are sung 
sometimes at the beginning, sometimes right through the 
game, and sometimes, as in "Bananas," at appropriate 
moments in the action. In none of these games ^s there 
any direct erotic element, but they all provide oppojfyu- 
nities for contact and for the handling of one another, io^- 
teasing and an exchange of jokes. In contest games, such 
as "Rats," "Dog's Tail," and "Fishing," only boys take 
part as a rule. In the more elaborate games, such as 
"Fire," "Bananas," and "Parrot," both sexes participate. 


This, also, is the invariable rule in the following games, 
which admit of even more intimate physical contact. The 
sina game forms part of the bathing ritual in the preg- 
nancy ceremony, and has been described in the previous 
chapter. In the village, boys and girls play it together. 
There is also a game in which the players stand in a long 
chain holding hands, and then walk, reciting a chant, 
round the person who stands at one end. This end re- 
mains immovable and the person at the other end leads 
the chain round in gradually narrowing circles until the 
whole group is pressed together into a tight knot. The 
fun of the game consists in squeezing the knot very 
tightly. It is then unrolled gradually by reversing the 
motion faster and faster, till at the end the others run 
round and round the fixed end until the chain breaks. 
Another game begins by two of the players sitting back 



to back 5 two more sit between the legs o£ each, serving as 
a support, and then two more between the legs of the 
second pair, and so onj and so seated they sing and begin 
to push backwards j the row which pushes the other one 
out of position wins. In both these games, close prox- 
imity lends itself to the preliminaries of love-making. 

The favourite and most important game is a tug-of- 
war, bi^u (literally pulling). A long stout creeper is cut 
and an equal number of players, each standing behind 
another, take, hold of either half of the creeper 5 usually 
the game starts somewhere in the middle of the village 
place {haku). When all are in position, one side recites 
half the ditty, the other responds with the second half, 
and as the recital ends they begin to tug. Sometimes it 
is men against women j sometimes by accident or prefer- 
ence, the sides are mixed. Never is there any division 
according to clan, though kinship taboos between men 
and women are always observed, so that brother and 
sister, for instance, never stand near each other. Each 
side strives to "get the other going," and the real fun 
begins when one side proves itself the stronger and drags 
the other. A great deal of roughness is displayed in this 
game, also a considerable amount of disregard for any 
damage done to houses, young trees, or domestic objects 
lying about. When it is played in the form of a kayasUy 
a competitive arrangement of which we shall speak pres- 
ently, houses, yam stores, and young trees are said to be 
destroyed and people are sometimes injured. 

The main interest in these competitive games of 
strength and skill lies in the game itself 3 but many of 



the players make use of them for erotic purposes. Not 
only does physical proximity allow of certain intimacies 
not otherwise possible, but, as we shall see later, it is in- 
dispensable for the exercise of some forms of love-magic. 

Late at night, usually as a climax to the other games, 
the natives play "Hide and Seek" (supeponi). When 
this game is played on a large scale, the sides start from 
the central place, but hide outside in the weyka, the vil- 
lage grove (pi. sQ' As a rule the sexes divide, women 
and men hiding alternately. When one player finds 
another he has to chant a ditty in a loud voice. Those 
who are not found for a long time, return by themselves, 
each singing a special phrase, as he or she arrives at the 
meeting-place. As with the tug-of-war, this game is 
extremely popular, and the sexual motive is without 
doubt partly responsible for this. Couples will arrange 
to look for each other or to meet at some particular place, 
and it is easy to see how well this game is designed for 
trysts, though probably such are mainly of a preliminary 
nature. It is accordingly not considered proper for mar- 
ried women to join in "Hide and Seek." 

On fine days the boys and girls will often arrange an 
excursion to some favourite spot. Usually they take 
food and cook it on a beach, or among the coastal rocks, 
or at some specially attractive waterhole. Sometimes they 
combine the excursion with fruit-gathering, fishing, or 
bird-trapping. At such times lovers will walk apart for 
greater intimacy. In the season of sweet flowering plants 
and trees they gather blossoms, adorn each other with 



garlands, and even with paint, and thus aesthetically cele- 
brate the occasion. 

On hot days in the season of calm weather, boys and 
girls repair to the beach, to waterholes, and to creeks, 
where they engage in bathing games. Each game has its 
stereotyped action and its special name 5 and most of them 
are accompanied by a chant. The players swim and dive 
in groups j or stand in a row, chanting a ditty, and, as it 
ends, fall backwards into the water and swim away on 
their backs. Again, they stand in a ring, facing inwards, 
sing a few words, and then splash one another. There 
is a game which commemorates an old legend about the 
change of a man into a dugong. They also know the use 
of the surfboard and amuse themselves with it on the 
open sea-beach. 

It is diiEcult to say exactly how far an erotic interest 
enters into these games. As in all the other games, so 
far described, the observer can see nothing in the slightest 
degree indecorous, but from conversations with natives 
and from their personal confidences, it is clear that amo- 
rous intrigues frequently start on such occasions. The 
splashing often passes into wrestling, and water games 
present the human body in a fresh and stimulating light. 



The games on the central village place are played, for 
the most part, between May and September, the cool 
season of the trade winds. There are no bathing games 



in these months, as a strong wind blows during the mid- 
day hours. Water games are most popular in the hot 
seasons between the dry and the rainy weather, from 
February to May, and during October and November. 
These latter months — the spring of the Southern Hemi- 
sphere, and, in the Trobriands, the calm season following 
the dry months of the trade winds — are also the time 
of harvest celebrations. 

Harvest time is one of joy and social activity, of con- 
stant visits between the communities, of competition, dis- 
play, and mutual admiration. Each village must send 
out its parties of boys and girls, with gifts of food. They 
wear a special dress, put aromatic leaves into their arm- 
lets and flowers into their hair, and a few lines of paint 
upon their faces. The girls put on a new fibre petticoat 
(pi. 6i), the boys a fresh pubic leaf. At times the cen- 
tral place is crowded with such harvest carriers (pi. 57). 
Such festive visits are an occasion for making new ac- 
quaintances and for a display of personal beauty, and thus 
lead to intrigues between members of different commu- 
nities.^ All the harvest customs favour erotic pursuits — 
visits to other villages and the added freedom, the gay 
mood and the care taken in personal adornment. After 
sunset, on the pretext of visiting the gardens, parties of 
boys and girls amuse themselves in other villages, return- 
ing home late at night. The fervour of these activities 
increases towards the full moon. 

1 For the sociological and economic systems which underlie the distri- 
bution of the crops at harvest and the gifts between villages, see my 
article in The Economic Journal, March, 1921, and ch. vi of Argonauts 
of the Western Pacific. 



The harvest period is directly followed by the mlla- 
mday the annual feast associated with the return of an- 
cestral spirits to the village/ The inaugural ceremony is 
held at a certain full moon, and is followed by a month 
of dancing which reaches its climax at the next full moon. 
On the last few days before full moon, certain solemn 
celebrations are held, dances in full dress are performed, 
and offerings made to the spirits of the departed. The 
whole interest of the community is concentrated on these 
final celebrations. Men and women are intent on pro- 
ducing an effect of lavishness, on doing honour to their 
ancestral spirits and thus to themselves, and in general on 
achieving that renown {hutura) so dear to the heart of 
the Trobriander. The dances during this time are never 
directly associated with sex, but they serve to establish the 
fame of good dancers and thus to add to their personal 
:harm. On the night after the full moon, the spirits are 
ceremonially driven away from the villages, and all danc- 
ing stops. 

A period of quieter festivity follows the milamala^ that 
of the karibom. After the evening meal, the village 
drummers, standing in the centre of the village place 
{baku)j beat out a slow rhythm. Soon children, old men 
and women, youths and maidens, assemble in the central 
place and begin to walk round it. There is no special step, 
no complicated rhythm j only a slow, regular, monoto- 
nous walk. Such karibom walking takes place also in the 

1 For a detailed description of beliefs and practices associated with the 
mtlamala see my articles, "Baloma, the Spirits of the Dead in the Tro- 
briand Islands," in Journal R. Anthrop. Inst., 1916, and "Lunar and Sea- 
sonal Calendar," ibid., 1927. Cf. also ch. xi, sec. 2, of this book. 



earlier stages of the milamala month, to be replaced to- 
wards its end by regular dancing. 

The slow rhythmic walk of the kanhom is to a great 
extent a social promenade. In place of the single file of 
the ordinary dance, two or three people walk abreast j 
conversation is allowed and free choice in the matter of 
partners. An old man or woman will be seen leading a 
grandchild by the hand or carrying it. Women, some- 
times with babies at the breast, gossip together, and lovers 
walk arm-in-arm. Since the karibom usually falls on 
dark, moonless evenings, it lends itself to erotic ap- 
proaches even more than the ordinary games, and con- 
siderably more than the regular dancing. There are a 
number of modes of erotic attack which can be practised 
during the karibom by a boy walking immediately behind 
the object of his fancy. From this position he can clasp 
her breasts, a proceeding which, as the natives say, is use- 
ful in stimulating her erotic interest, and is also a condi- 
tion of certain forms of love-magic. Or else he may hold 
certain aromatic herbs under her nose, the smell of which, 
by its own virtue alone or by this enhanced with magic, 
exercises a powerful erotogenous effect. Or, if he be 
enterprising and his desire strong, he may, parting the 
fringe of her grass skirt, insert a finger in her vulva. 

During the whole period of this festival, but more espe- 
cially during the first part, the milamala^ visits between 
communities take place. Sometimes these visits are offi- 
cial and ceremonial, as when one community is invited by 
another to admire a newly acquired dance, or to sell one 
of their own to it. A special term laga is applied to the 



sale of dances and one or two other privileges and titles/ 
For such an occasion, the whole community, with its head- 
man and best dancers, moves in a body to the other vil- 
lage and there ceremonially performs the dance, instruct- 
ing the purchasers in its intricacies (pi. 58). The visit 
is always returned. Large gifts (ya^otu) are associated 
with such visits, and have, as always, to be returned in an 
equivalent form. But sometimes groups of youths and 
maidens, boys and girls, will go from one village to an- 
other for their private pleasure, and join in the local 
karlhom (slow rhythmic walking). In this way new ac- 
quaintances are made and more or less temporary intrigues 
begun, distance and strangeness adding spice to the ad- 

Thus, in normal years, the festive mood of the mila- 
fnala spreads itself through the dull round of the karlhom. 
But if the food be plentiful and the festive mood exu- 
berant j if there are special reasons for celebration or some 
need to comfort the spirits of the people, as after a de- 
feat in war or an unsuccessful kula expedition, then the 
period of dancing is deliberately prolonged. Such an ex- 
tension is called uslgolay "together for a dance" {usl from 
•KJo^i = dance, gola^= to accumulate or forgather). It 
may last one, two, or even three months. Like the mila- 
malay this extension has its inaugural ceremony, its inter- 
mediate feasts, and its climax in an orgy of feasting and 
dancing which may last for several days. People from 
friendly villages are invited 3 they arrive with presents 
and return home laden with counter-gifts. All that has 

1 Cf. Argonauts, p. 186. 



been previously said with reference to the sexual oppor- 
tunities offered by the main festival period obviously ap- 
plies also to the usigola. 


The usigola (extension of dancing period) is only one 
type of the festivities into which the fnilmnala may be 
extended. The generic name for such periods of com- 
petitive obligatory dancing, amusement or other activity 
is kayasa. A kayasa is always organized upon a definite 
pattern, with a ceremonial according to its kindj and it 
has, in some aspects, the binding force of law. A kayasa 
need not be specially a period of amusement. There are 
kayasa of economic activities, such as gardening, fishing 
or the production of shell ornaments. But although the 
usigola belongs to this type of communal activity, it is 
never called kayasa; nor is this term applied to competi- 
tive ceremonial and obligatory expeditions of the kula 
type. Such special kula expeditions are always called 

In certain cases the activity round which a kayasa cen- 
tres is an exclusive privilege of the community or clan 5 
but whatever its kind, initiative must always be taken by 
the headman, who acts as toUkayasa (master of the 
kayasa). It is he who, with the assistance of his clans- 

^ For a description of the wvalaku, cf. Argonauts of the Western Pa- 
cific, passim. The place of the kayasa in economic life has been indicated 
in my article on the "Primitive Economics of the Trobriand Islanders,"' 
Economic Journal, March, 1921. Its legal aspect has been referred to in 
Crime and Custom in Savage Society, p. 61, 



men and kinsmen, has to provide the wherewithal for the 
big feast or, rather, the ceremonial distribution of food 
(sagali) which inaugurates the proceedings. Those who 
partake of this — and practically all the community have 
to do so — are under a formal obligation to exert them- 
selves for the whole period, so that the kayasa may be a 
success 5 and, at times, when their zeal in work or amuse- 
ment shows signs of flagging, a new feast is given to re- 
vive enthusiasm. There is a reason behind this fiction of 
a legal obligation towards the leader on account of food 
and gifts received: for the glory of a successful kayasa 
devolves principally upon the toUkayasa (the leader or 
owner of the kayasa). But, as we know already, there is 
also scope for the ambition of any participant, and the 
element of emulation is very strong in all kayasa. Each 
of them includes some form of competitive display or 
contest, and there is always a pronouncement of public 
opinion on the result. So that the most successful or 
energetic participants also receive an individual share of 

Among the kayasa of pure amusement, we may men- 
tion first the tug-of-war game, already described in this 
section. When played as a kayasa it is inaugurated cere- 
monially by a big distribution of food (sagali^ see ch. xi, 
sec. 2). After that it has to be continued night after night 
in full force, with utter disregard of personal inclination, 
comfort, or even property, which, as mentioned already, 
is often damaged. The community divides regularly into 
two parts j especially good tuggers acquire renown, and the 
stories of extraordinary feats, of special havoc wrought, 



or o£ long and arduous deadlocks, fill the whole district 
with the fame {huturd) of leader and participants. There 
is a sporting kayasa, specially popular in the southern 
part of the district, in which miniature canoes are sailed 
competitively. Another type of kayasa^ called kamrorUy 
is performed exclusively by women, and consists of com- 
munal singing. This is regarded as a counterpart of the 
ceremonial dancing, in which, with very rare exceptions, 
only men take part. In the kamroru kayasay women, in 
full dress, seat themselves on new mats spread on the 
central place and, swaying rhythmically, sing certain songs 
in unison. The men look on from the platforms of the 
storehouses and admire the most beautiful figures and the 
finest voices. 

There is a more direct erotic appeal in the festivities 
connected with the sweet-smelling butta. The flowering 
season of the hutla tree coincides with the milamala period 
(annual feast of the returning spirits), and the flower 
kayasa is therefore only held in those years when owing 
to mourning there can be no dances in the village. Other- 
wise the season is always devoted to dancing. The flowers 
are collected in the jungle, made into wreaths and gar- 
lands, and exchanged with a blowing of conch-shells. As 
the natives put it: "We make kula (ceremonial exchange) 
with hutla wreaths." In fact, whoever initiates an ex- 
change has to say, as he offers the wreath: um^maygu^a 
(thy valuable present). A small return gift of food or 
betel-nut is then made, with the words: katn kwayfolu 
(thy preliminary return). Finally a counterpart of the 
first present is returned to the donor with the words: um 



yotile (thy return gift). Thus the exact terminology of 
the kula is followed in these transactions/ A festive 
character is given to the whole proceedings by the 
groups of people walking about and singing 3 by the gaily 
dressed boys and girls taking part in the ceremonial far 
into the night 5 and by the sound of the conch-shells, 
blown as each gift is presented. 

The competitive element in the hutia festival lies in the 
quality and quantity of the presents received and, given, 
and, as in all forms of such exchange, to give or to re- 
ceive a magnificent gift contributes to the glory of either 
side. This kayasa provides opportunities for courtship 
and for the expression of mutual admiration 3 a would-be 
lover can display his appreciation of a girl in the magni- 
tude of his gifts, and at the same time flatter her vanity 
and satisfy her ambition. Thus beauty, erotic interest^ 
ambition, and vanity are the chief interests in this kayasa, 

A more pronounced part is played by vanity in the fes- 
tivals of hair-dressing {wayfulu) and of ornamental shell 
discs {kaloma). The wayfulu is confined to the islands 
of Kitava and Vakuta. After a long period during which 
no deaths have occurred so that the people have been able 
to grow long hair, a display of this highly valued natural 
beauty is held (see ch. x, sec. 3). Only men take part in 
this kayasa. They adorn themselves, spread mats on the 
central place, and, teasing out their hair with the long- 
pronged Melanesian comb, they sing and display its 
charm. The women admire and pronounce judgment on 
the quality and beauty of the hair. The kayasa of shell 

1 Cf. Argonauts of the Western Pacific, pp. 352-7. 



ornaments is held in the villages of Sinaketa and Vakuta. 
When a large number of these discs have been produced, 
the men adorn themselves, and day after day, evening 
after evening, parade the central place. 

To a European observer the proceedings of a kayasor 
appear unspeakably monotonous and pointless. The repe- 
tition for weeks on end of exactly the same procedure 
prevents even an ethnographer from regular attendance 
at any. kayasa. But, for the native, apart from any feel- 
ing of duty, the whole affair has an intense interest and 
considerable attraction. In this, sex plays a considerable 
part. For the desire to show off, to produce a personal 
effect, to achieve butura (renown) in its most valued 
form, that of irresistible charm, contains a pronounced 
erotic element. 


There is, or, at least, used to be till the missionaries 
came, one kayasa which centred round erotic dalliance 
satisfied in public and that very thoroughly. This kayasa 
was never practised in the northern and central parts of 
the district, but only by a few villages in the extreme 
south end of the island of Vakuta. It was called kamaliy 
a dialectic variation of the word kimaliy the erotic scratch- 
ing, which symbolizes the erotic approach, as does kissing 
with us. It is a general rule in all districts of the Tro- 
briands that, when a boy and girl are strongly attracted to 
each other, and especially before their passion is satisfied, 
the girl is allowed to inflict considerable bodily pain on 



her lover by scratching, beating, thrashing, or even 
wounding with a sharp instrument. However severely 
he is handled, such treatment is accepted in good part by 
the boy, as a sign of love and a symptom of temperament 
in his sweetheart. On one occasion, during the harvest 
festivities, I had to dress the wound of a boy who came 
to me with a deep cut in the muscles right across the back 
under his shoulder-blades. The girl who had made it 
hovered near in deep concern. I was told that she struck 
too hard without realizing it. The boy did not appear to 
mind, though he was evidently in pain, and (so I heard) 
he reaped his reward that same night. This case was 
typical. The kimali or kamali is a form of, feminine 
wooing, a compliment and an invitation, which in the 
kamali kayasa was systematized and carried out on a large 
scale. Boys in gala dress would walk round the central 
place singing: girls would come up to them and teasing 
jokes and repartee would be exchanged, very much as in 
other kayasa. But things were allowed to go very much 
further. Women, who were expected on such occasions 
to be much more forward than usual, would pass from 
teasing to scratching, and attack the boys with mussel- 
shells and bamboo-knives, or with a piece of obsidian or 
a small sharp axe. A boy was allowed to run away, and 
would do so if his assailant were not attractive to him. 
But it was a sign of manliness and a proof of success to 
be properly slashed about. Also, when a boy was attracted 
by a girl, he would, naturally, not run away, but take her 
attack as an invitation. The ambition of a woman was 
successively to slash as many men as she could 3 the am- 



bition of a man to carry away as many cuts as he could 
stand, and to reap the reward in each case. 

I have never assisted at such a kayasa. As far as I 
could find out, through the interference of the white mis- 
sionaries and officials, not one had occurred within 
twenty years of my arrival. So that data collected 
about this kayasa are what might be called "hearsay 
documents." The account of scratching and cutting, how- 
ever, tallies so well with facts observed by myself that I 
have not the slightest reason to doubt its accuracy. What 
follows is given with due reservation, though it agrees 
with the reports about some other Melanesian and Poly- 
nesian natives. I was told by several independent in- 
formants, both from the districts concerned and from the 
north, that the relaxation of all control was complete dur- 
ing that kayasa. Sexual acts would be carried out in public 
on the central place j married people would participate in 
the orgy, man or wife behaving without restraint, even 
though within hail of each other. This licence would be 
carried so far that copulation would take place within sight 
of the luleta (sister, man speaking 3 brother, woman 
speaking): the person with regard to whom the strictest 
sexual taboos are always observed (see chs. xiii and xiv). 
The trustworthiness of these statements is confirmed by 
the fact that I was told several times, when discussing 
other forms of kayasa in the north, that all of them were 
carried out in a much more orgiastic manner in the south. 
Thus at a tug-of-war kayasa in the south, men and women 
would always be on opposite sides. The winning side 
would ceremonially deride the vanquished with the typical 



ululating scream {katugogovd)^ and then assail their 
prostrate opponents, and the sexual act would be carried 
out in public. On one occasion when I discussed this 
matter with a mixed crowd from the north and the south, 
both sides categorically confirmed the correctness of this 

In this context two occasional forms of customary inter- 
course may be mentioned. During the mortuary wake 
{yawaU\ which takes place immediately after a man's 
death, people from all the surrounding communities con- 
gregate and take part in the songs and ceremonies which 
last for the best part of the night. When, far into the 
night, the visitors return home, it is the custom for some 
of the girls to remain behind to sleep with certain boys 
of the bereaved village. Their regular lovers must not, 
and do not, interfere. 

Another type of sexual latitude is associated with hos- 
pitality given to strangers j but this obligation was more 
strictly observed in former times when, owing to the 
greater fear and mistrust of strangers, the visitors were 
fewer and better chosen. I am told that it was then con- 
sidered the duty of a girl from the village to act as the 
stranger's partner for the night. Hospitality, curiosity, 
and the charm of novelty would make this duty perhaps 
not very arduous. 

The only overseas strangers, who, in olden days, used 
to voyage regularly, were those who came to the Tro- 
briands on the kula trading expeditions. When the cere- 
monial stages of the visit were over and some exchange 
of gifts had taken place, the visitors would enter the vil- 



lage and hold friendly converse with the inhabitants. It 
was also the duty of the hosts to provide the guests with 
food 3 but this could never be given in the village, since 
it was against all etiquette to eat within a strange com- 
munity. Therefore it was taken to the beach where the 
canoes were moored. Thither the village beauties would 
carry it on platters, and wait till these were emptied. 
Friendly talk would ripen into intimacy, presents would 
be offered by the strangers to the girls, and their accept- 
ance was a sign that the girl was willing. It was consid- 
ered right, and sanctioned by custom, that the local girls 
should sleep with the visitors j and for this, also, accepted 
lovers had not the right to punish or reprimand them. 

This holds good especially about the northern half of 
the island, visited by men from Kitava and the other 
Marshall Bennett Islands. In the southern villages, vis- 
ited by the foreign-speaking Dobuans and Amphlettans, 
the strangers also sometimes slept with the local girls. 
But this was not so usual, as the Dobuans never recipro- 
cated or allowed their women folk to grant any favours 
to visiting Trobrianders. 

The customs and arrangements so far considered are 
partly seasonal, partly dependent on special circumstances. 
The games described at the beginning of this chapter, 
which take place by moonlight on the central place, are 
mostly played during the trade-wind season, from May 
to September. The harvest activities and festivals begin 
in June and last into August. The milamda begins in 
September and ends in October. Its date is fixed by the 
appearance of the falolo worm, which comes up regularly 



at a certain full moon. The name for this worm is also 
fmlamala^ and it is sometimes mystically connected with 
the arrival of the spirits. The kayasa is sometimes held 
during the milamala season, but usually it occurs imme- 
diately afterwards as an extension of the festival. Dur- 
ing the full rainy season which follows, January, Febru- 
ary, and March, the telling of fairy tales and gardening 
are the main social occupations. We shall have to touch 
upon these presently. Bathing games take place in April 
and May, October and November, between the dry and 
wet seasons. 

What is the relation of these customs to the normal 
course of courtship described in chapter iii? They give 
opportunities for strangers to meet and for erotic interest 
to pass beyond the confines of the village. This may lead 
merely to romantic escapades which enrich experience and 
guide maturer choice within the community. But some- 
times such intrigues end in marriage, and then the woman 
always follows her husband since, as we know, marriage 
is patrilocal. 




The periodical rise and fall of erotic life in the Tro- 
briands might be represented by a curve determined by 
tribal festivities, ceremonial customs, and economic ac- 
tivities. These, in turn, follow the moon and seasons in 
their courses. The curve rises regularly at full moon and 
its highest point occurs at and immediately after harvest. 



The drops in the curve are associated with absorbing 
economic pursuits and sports, with gardening and overseas 
expeditions. Certain of the festivals favour an overflow 
of erotic interest beyond the boundaries of a village com- 

A liaison between two people who live at a distance 
from one another, is not too easy. Many special customs 
of assignation, visit, and tryst, which the natives compre- 
hensively call ulatlley tend to assist separated lovers. 
Such visiting when done by men is called ulatiley which 
means literally "male youth," and describes the group 
of adolescent boys and young men who often act in a body 
in work or play (pi. 59). By an extension of meaning, 
the noun ulatile is used to describe "youthful exuberance," 
or even, more specifically, "sexual activity." We have 
met with this term already (ch. iii, sec. 2) in the com- 
pound td^ulaule (young man). Pronounced with a cer- 
tain intonation, this term conveys the meaning of "gay 
dog," or even "fornicator." Applied to a woman, it 
assumes the form naka^ulatiley and is used only with the 
derogatory meaning, "wanton woman," or more precisely, 
"a woman who desires more than she is desired." In its 
original etymological implication, it probably means "for- 
ward like a man" (see ch. xiii, sec. 4). Used as a verb, 
the root ulatile is applied primarily to males, and it sig- 
nifies "to go on a love-making expedition," "to have 
success with women," "to indulge in excessive sexual inter- 
course." It can be used by extension about women, except 
when it is applied to an expedition outside the village, in 
which case it refers only to men. 



There are two forms of ulatile expedition to which the 
word applies in a somewhat technical sense. The first is 
a matter of necessity: a lover must visit his sweetheart 
in her own village. If, on one of the several occasions 
described in the previous section, two people from dif- 
ferent communities have become strongly attracted by 
each other, they will arrange a meeting. As a rule the 
boy has some intim.ate friend in the girl's village, and this 
makes things easier, since this friend will help him. It 
is a matter of etiquette for the lover to adorn himself 
for the tryst, and this compels him to observe a certain 
measure of secrecy. He will not walk on the main road, 
but surreptitiously steal through the bush. "Like a sor- 
cerer he will go 5 stop and listen j go sideways and push 
through the jungle j no one must see him." Thus one of 
my informants likened such ulatile to the clandestine 
expeditions of sorcerers who, on their nocturnal expedi- 
tions, must not be seen by anybody. 

As he approaches the village he has to be specially 
careful. In his own village such a passing intrigue, if 
discovered, would only arouse the jealousy of the accred- 
ited lover and start a minor quarrel. But an erotic 
poacher caught in another community might be seriously 
mishandled, not only by the jealous lover, but by all the 
other boys. He might also bring upon his sweetheart the 
reproaches of her regular lover. However, the main 
reason for secrecy is that it is enjoined by custom as a rule 
of the game. The two usually arrange to meet in the 
jungle near the girl's village. Sometimes the girl guides 
her lover to the chosen place by lighting a firej some- 



times they agree to imitate the call of a birdj sometimes 
she marks the way into the chosen spot of the jungle by 
tearing the leaves in a pattern or by placing leaves on 
the road. 

If the passion stands the test of time and difficulty and 
ripens into affection, steps are taken to make the liaison 
permanent and official. The boy may join his friend in 
the village, and remain there under some pretext as a 
temporary citizen. Or else the girl will be accepted in 
his village and come to live there. When taking a village 
census, I often came across a girl who was staying in the 
community because she was living with some boy belong- 
ing to it. The two would sleep together in a hukumatula 
(unmarried boys' and girls' house) in the same way as 
an ordinary affianced couple (see ch. iii, sec. 4), and if 
the liaison went well, it ended naturally in marriage. 

Another technical use of the word ulatile applies to 
an entirely different type of love-making expedition. 
.Sometimes a group of boys, who have brought away spe- 
cially pleasant memories of another community from 
some festive gathering, will decide to go there in a body, 
•on a regular ulatile expedition. Here secrecy is neces- 
sary, too. For though such expeditions are customary and, 
in a way, lawful, they constitute an encroachment on the 
rights of two other groups, the ordinary sweethearts of 
the ulatile boys, and the youths of the other village. If 
caught by either party the adventurers would have to 
face a volley of abuse, or even of blows j for girls in the 
Trobriands can defend their rights by force, and the boys 
in each community regard their women folk as their own 
preserve. The adventurers would, thereforej usually 



steal out at night and put on their ornaments outside their 
village. But once on the main road, they become bois- 
terous and defiant, for this is the proper behaviour on such 
an occasion. There are even some special bawdy songs, 
called Wuwdy to which they keep time as they go along. 


Necklace of Wawela! 

Aramwaye! Bagigido^u! 
Hoho! Fine necklace! 

Say am, Rafa^odi. 

Sayam, Rapa'odi. 
Bakwatega Kadlratume, 

I anchor indeed (on) Kadiratume (beach), 


He sits by her 





young man 3 
young woman, 


she stands up. 



Free Translation 
"Hoho — (I come adorned with) a fine necklace, 
The necklace of Wawela, like Sayam with the armshell 

I anchor on a beach in Gawa, a boy sits by his girl. 
She stands near him. Hallo! Young woman. 
Hurray, hoho, hurray." 

Sayam is said to be a man celebrated for beauty j and 
famous ornaments, such as the Rapa'odi armshell, are 
associated with attraction, success and love magic. He 



appears here adorned with a famous armshell named 
Rapa'odi, which, as indicated in the free translation, 
means that the "I" of the song also wears a fine neck- 
lace. In the reduplicated form un^unatmey the ;^ is a 
dialectic equivalent of the / of ulatile. 


Hoho! I'll sleep, 

balage kuftra 

I'll hear drum his (of) 


It throbs (with dance music) 
their festival skirts, 

Kala wosi 

His song 





Bamasisiy bamamata; 

I'll wakej 

festival skirts. 

it fetches (attracts) 
on their flanks. 

in hand. 

owadolay lakatunenm 
on mouth, his small drum 


his teeth 

yamtu Wavivi 

treads (village of) Wavivi 


Yamtufnutu Wavivi, 

He treads and treads (through the village of) Wavivi. 

Free Translation 

Hoho! I awake from my sleep, I hear the festive 
beat of the drums, as they throb with dance music — 
attracting women with full-dress skirts, with festive 
skirts on their flanks. With his song on his mouth, 



with his small drum in his hand, his teeth blackened, 
Tokivina rhythmically treads in the village of Wavivi, 
he walks in dancing rhythm through the village of 

In this short song we have a condensed picture of a 
ulatile situation — the awakening at night, the sound of 
a distant drum announcing great festivities in a neighbour- 
ing village. And here, again, there is a legendary person 
moving in the background, partly as a good augury, partly 
as an ideal. The psychology of this traditional worship 
of personal beauty and charm will be discussed later on. 

Such songs, I am told, were also sung in olden days 
to indicate that the party was neither on the warpath nor 
on a sorcery expedition, nor bent on any other real mis- 
chief. As they approach their goal they become quiet 
again, for they must not be seen by the village youths. 
The girls, of course, know when the expedition is draw- 
ing near, for everything has been previously arranged in 
detail. The visitor most familiar with the village creeps 
near and gives the agreed signal. One by one the girls 
sneak out of the houses and meet their lovers in the bush. 
Sometimes the girls are already awaiting them at some 
pre-arranged meeting place outside. Should this gather- 
ing of lovers be detected, a fight might ensue, leading, 
in former times, even to war between the two com- 

Such ulaule expeditions are definite deviations from 
the regular course of tribal life.^ They lead invariably 
to lovers' quarrels in both villages, and to serious dif- 

1 For a discussion of the customary abrogations of law and conflicts be- 
tween various classes of custom, see Crime and Custom, part ii. 



ferences between the two communities. They were an 
important feature of love life in former days when 
armed expeditions for purposes of love-making were more 
usual than an individual ulatile. Nowadays, however, 
when it is so much easier and safer for a man or woman 
to walk alone even at night, the trysting of one boy with 
one girl is much more common. 

To preserve perspective and to place the ulatile expe- 
ditions correctly in their context of tribal life, it must be 
realized that there are various occasions, apart from court- 
ship, on which the youth of the village would visit other 
communities in a body. At harvest and during the danc- 
ing season (see pis. 57 and 58), for common games and 
mortuary feasts, groups of young men, more or less 
dressed up, can be met on the road or seen paddling along 
in the large fishing canoes. As a matter of fact, the love- 
making expeditions from the lagoon villages of the west 
coast would also be made by water (see pi. 60). Thus 
a party of boys on the road, decorated and singing, may 
Le bent either on a real ulatile expedition, or else on some 
ordinary inter- village business or amusement j and it is 
difficult on surface evidence to draw any sharp distinction 
between erotic and other expeditions. 

It is easy to see how inter-village intrigues fit into the 
general scheme of courtship described in chapter iii. The 
childish erotic experiences with which the sexual life his- 
tory of an individual begins always takes place within the 
community 5 the ulatile is one among the customs which 
carry erotic interest and those transitory affairs, which 
are the next stage in development, beyond the village.. 



Such intrigues may become permanent and thus the ulatiler 
is one of the ways in which matrimonial choice is extended 
beyond a single village. 


In matters of love the Trobriand woman does not con- 
sider herself man's inferior, nor does she lag behind him 
in initiative and self-assertion. The ulatile have their 
counterpart in the katuyausiy amorous expeditions of vil- 
lage girls to other communities. 

Sometimes these expeditions are simply to avenge too- 
much ulatile on the part of the boys. Or, as happens in. 
coastal villages, the men are long absent fishing, trading,, 
or sailing, and the girls seek consolation in another village. 
At times the incentive is more directly feminine. The 
girls have equipped themselves with a specially brilliant 
supply of grass petticoats, and want to display them on a. 
wider stage than their own village. Some of my cynical 
informants affirmed that a katuyausi expedition is the 
girls' best means of replenishing their store of betel-nut 
and tobacco and of collecting an armlet or a comb, a. 
pleasing handbag or a new supply of beads. 

I am also under the impression that on each occasion, 
the katuyausi party offer some pretext for their visit, such 
as the desire to see the crops, or to admire a new construc- 
tion, a chief's house or yam-house, or else they pretend, 
to be hawking some object for sale. 

Whatever the chief incentive, and the pretext, as sooa 



as their decision is taken the girls will choose an interme- 
diary to arrange the date and conditions of their prospec- 
tive visit to the boys of the other village. The procedure 
of a katuyausi expedition differs greatly from that of 
a ulatile. The boys leave after sunset under cover of 
night, whereas the girls start as a rule early in the after- 
noon. The boys creep out of the village, but once fairly 
on the road, sing and behave boisterously. The girls also 
steal quietly away, but their behaviour is decorous 
throughout the journey. Near the other village the boys 
have to hide, but the girls enter the village grove openly, 
sit down there and put the finishing touches to their toilet. 
They paint their lips red with betel-nut, draw decorative 
lines on their faces, and fill their armlets with aromatic 
herbs (pi. 6i). It is etiquette for the local boys to allow 
them to remain alone on the outskirts of the village until 
they give the sign for the boys to approach. During this 
time the girls may sing, play the native (now the im- 
ported) Jew's harp, and chew betel-nut j when they are 
ready to receive, they sing the song which is the previ- 
ously arranged signal for the boys to come nearer. The 
latter have, of course, been expecting them, and now ap- 
proach in groups. Soon the whole village community is 
seated facing the girls, with the exception of their local 
rivals, who resent the intrusion and sulk, though custom 
does not allow them actively to interfere with the pro- 

It is evening by now, and the interesting stage of the 
visit is approaching. The katuyausi party have remained 
seated, nonchalant and detached (pi. 62). The youths 



and older men stand facing them, pursuing their own 
conversations with apparent unconcern. Then banter and 
jokes begin to pass from one side to the other 5 the boys 
come nearer the girls and the ceremony of choice begins. 
According to custom, the initiative in pairing off should 
come from the hosts, and each guest has to accept any 
offer made to her as a matter of etiquette. But, of course, 
definite preferences between the outstanding individuals 
of each group exist and are known. An unimportant boy 
would not dare interfere with the pleasure of his stronger, 
elder, and more influential comrade, so that in reality the 
choice is largely based on anterior intrigues and attach- 
ments. Each boy then ceremonially offers a small gift 
to the girl of his choice — a comb, a necklet, a nose stick, 
a bunch of betel-nut. If she accepts the gift she accepts 
the boy for that night as her lover. When the boy knows 
the girl well he presents the gift himself. If he does not, 
or if he feels too shy, he will ask help of an older man, 
who hands over the offering with the words, ^^kam 
va^otu" {va*otu — ^visiting present, present of induce- 
ment), "So-and-so gives it to you 5 you are his sweet- 
heart." Very rarely does a girl refuse or ignore such a 
present J if she did, she would greatly offend and mortify 
the man. 

After the boys and girls have thus been allotted in 
pairs, they all, as a rule, go to some spot in the jungle, 
where they spend the best part of the night chewing, 
smoking, and singing, each couple keeping to themselves. 
At times a boy and a girl will leave the main group with- 
out any attention being paid to them. Some of the boys 



may invite their sweethearts to spend the rest of the night 
in a bukumatula of the village, but usually this presents 
difficulties. All the arrangements associated with the 
katuyausiy as well as with the ulatile, are distinguished 
by complete decorum, and by the absence of all orgiastic 
-elements. They are carried out, no doubt, in a less deli- 
cate manner in the southern villages than in the north, 
but even in the south they essentially differ from such 
•orgiastic customs as the kamaU, the bi^Uy and the custom 
of the yausay which will be described in the next section. 

As far as I could gather, in former times no year would 
pass without some two, three or four katuyausi parties 
visiting a community. The first missionary had to ask 
for a special regulation in order to put down this "abom- 
inable abuse." At present, as a result of the white man's 
interference with local custom, combined with his intro- 
duction of much worse immorality, the regulated and 
decorous custom of the katuyausi has fallen into decay. 
But even while I was in the Trobriands, parties of girls 
from Okaykoda visited Omarakana, and from Kaybola 
went to Kwaybwaga3 also the Kwaybwaga girls avenged 
themselves on their lovers by going on katuyausi to 
Vilaylima. Early in my stay at Omarakana in 191 8, a 
number of such guests came, at harvest time and osten- 
:sibly to admire the yams, and I was even able to pho- 
tograph them and to watch the earlier part of the 

The return of a katuyausi party to their own village 
is often a sad epilogue to a gay night. The girls try to 
•enter the village and regain their houses unobserved. 



But they are not always successful. If the whole party 
is waylaid and caught, the reckoning takes place then and 
there. The culprits are abused, beaten, and, as I was told 
by several of my informants, sometimes actually violated 
by their own lovers in public. Several boys would hold 
a girl, while the rightful owner exercised his prerogative 
as a punishment. If this be true it is the only exception 
to that rule of strict decorum in public which is observed 
by all Trobrianders, with the exception of the people of 
Vakuta, Okayaulo, and some others of the southern vil- 



We now turn to the extreme south of the main island, 
and the adjoining island of Vakuta. We have already 
mentioned these districts, not very honourably, several 
times. They are in general distinguished ethnologically 
by a certain coarseness of character and habit which is 
displayed in many aspects of their life. In sexual matters 
they are undoubtedly much more crude than the north- 
erners, and have practices which would offend the finer 
feeling for etiquette and decorum, if not for morals, of 
the latter. Also, in the past, these villages were on hostile 
terms with most of their neighbours. 

The data which we have given above as to the orgiastic 
character of one or two forms of kayasa receive addi- 
tional confirmation from another custom which used to be 
in vogue among these natives. The exact nature of the 
custom, its full details and its correct perspective, must 



unfortunately remain obscure. All I know about it is 
from hearsay, and the custom is so unlike anything which 
I have seen myself, that I am unable to add those neces- 
sary touches of life which depend on actual observation. 

All districts in the Trobriands have the economic custom 
of female communal labour in the weeding of gardens. 
Since it is a tedious, monotonous activity, which requires 
little skill and not much attention, and can be best enli- 
vened by gossip and company, the women work together at 
each garden in'turn, until all the village plots are weeded 
over. As in all other exclusively feminine occupations, 
it is bad form for any man to come near them while they 
are working, or to pay any attention to them save on a 
matter of business. 

Now this communal weeding when practised by women 
of the villages of Okayaulo, Bwaga, Kumilabwaga, 
Louya, Bwadela, or by the villages of Vakuta, gives the 
weeders a curious privilege.^ If they perceive a stranger, 
a man from any village but their own, passing within 
sight, they have the customary right to attack him, a right 
which by all accounts they exercise with zeal and energy. 

The man is the fair game of the women for all that 
sexual violence, obscene cruelty, filthy pollution, and 
rough handling can do to him. Thus first they pull off 
and tear up his pubic leaf, the protection of his modesty 
and, to a native, the symbol of his manly dignity. Then, 
by masturbatory practices and exhibitionism, they try to 
produce an erection in their victim and, when their 
manoeuvres have brought about the desired result, one 

•"'• Compare map. 



of them squats over him and inserts his penis into her 
vagina. After the first ejaculation he may be treated 
in the same manner by another woman. Worse things 
are to follow. Some of the women will defecate and 
micturate all over his body, paying special attention to his 
face, which they pollute as thoroughly as they can. "A 
man will vomit, and vomit, and vomit," said a sympathetic 
informant. Sometimes these furies rub their genitals 
against his nose and mouth, and use his fingers and toes, 
in fact, any projecting part of his body, for lascivious 
purposes. The natives from the north are very much 
amused by this custom, which they despise or affect to 
despise. They love to enter into details, and to demon- 
strate by convincing mimicry. Local informants from the 
south confirmed this account in all essentials. They were 
by no means ashamed of their custom, regarding it rather 
as a sign of the general virility of the district, and passing 
on any possible opprobrium to the stranger-victims. Some 
of my local informants added that at the yausa^ as this 
custom is called, women would throw off their fibre skirts, 
and naked "like a band of tauva^u*^ (evil spirits) pounce 
upon the man. He also added that hair would be torn 
from the man's head, and that he would be lacerated and 
beaten till he was too weak to get up and move away. 



Such is the natives' account of the yausa. What are the 
facts? I never observed them at first hand 3 partly be- 



cause I was never able to go south at the time of weed- 
ing, partly because I was told that, even now, no stranger 
to the district would dream of going there at that season. 
Had I gone there in person, the negative result would 
have been ethnologically disappointing, the positive dis- 
tinctly unpleasant 5 so I abstained. When I tried, as 
always in such cases, to test the general statement by his- 
torical fact, to find out how many people had been thus 
ill-treated — who, when and on what occasion — I invari- 
ably drew a blank. I always received the same answer: 
"Oh, people are so afraid that no one would dare to come 
near." The only concrete argument in support of its 
truth was that Misipelosi and Misimoytena (the Rev. 
S. B. Fellowes, the first Missionary, and the Hon. M. H. 
Moreton, the first Resident Magistrate) had been afraid 
to face the yausa^ and that no gumanuma (white man) 
had ever dared to do so. I also was begged not to make 
any attempt to go south in the yausa season, and I obeyed 
the advice. And I thus became another proof of the 
reality of this custom to the natives. 

So I was left with the principal question unanswered: 
is this custom, so exactly and minutely described, so 
prominent in the native interest, a fact in the sense that 
it has been really practised? or only in so far that it 
would be practised should occasion arise? Or is it merely 
one of those customs which only exist in belief and in 
legend, and have never had any basis in actual occurrence? 

The most that can be said with certainty is that the 
yausay if it happened at all, happened extremely rarely 5 
for even less in the olden days than now would a stranger 



have occasion to visit those inhospitable regions, which 
were on a hostile footing with all their neighbours and 
always ready to harm a stranger in one way or another. 
Taking the tradition at its lowest value, it is a standing 
myth, backed up by lively interest and a strong belief. 
It gives the women of the region a bellicose attitude, it 
surrounds them at weeding time with an absolute taboo, 
and gives their communal work in the garden the char- 
acter of a sex privilege. The only parallel for the cus- 
tom in folk-lore is the legend about Kaytalugi, the land 
of the sexually insatiable women (see ch. xii, 4) 5 and in 
actual fact, the orgiastic nature, in the south, of the 
kayasa of the tug-of-war and of the erotic scratching, and 
the greater sexual coarseness to be found there."^ 

It is characteristic that all the natives are interested 
in this custom and amused by it. Whenever any cognate 
or associated subject is discussed — gardens, communal 
work, the position of women, fighting or sex — the yausa 

^ In this matter parallels might be found perhaps among tribes further 
south on the d'Entrecasteaux Archipelago, and on the mainland of New 
Guinea. I was told by a white trader that on the southern shore of Nor- 
manby Island there are several orgiastic performances and festivities. 
On certain occasions a small hut with a very high front gable is con- 
structed and passes under the name of "the entrance of the body." In 
this hut a girl will remain during the festivity, boys will visit her semi- 
publicly, and have intercourse with her one after another. Again, 
among the natives of the south coast, east of Orangerie Bay (the Da'ui 
and Su'au), several boys sometimes cohabit with one girl, each in the 
presence of another: a procedure which would be repugnant to the Tro- 
briander's finer sensibilities. On the other hand, such tribes, for instance, 
as the Dobuans of the d'Entrecasteaux Archipelago and the Mailu, are 
considerably more restrained in sexual matters than either the Trobri- 
anders or the other Southern Massim. Compare C. G. Seligman, op. cit., 
on the Southern Massim, chap, xxxviii, "Courtship, Betrothal, and Mar- 
riage," and chap, xliii, "Morals." Compare also my account of the Mailu 
in the "Natives of Mailu," Transactions of the Royal Society of South 
Australia, 1915. 



is dragged in, and the natives embark on detailed and 
graphic descriptions, until it becomes the anthropologist's 
bugbear. Only once did I find it really useful. In one 
of the surly, reticent and coarse communities on the 
lagoon, there was special difficulty in finding suitable 
informants. One afternoon I was working with a group 
of unwilling informants, seated under a large banyan 
tree on the shore of the lagoon. It was one of those slack 
and sterile periods so well-known to the field-worker, 
when he discovers only gaps and inconsistencies in his 
information, becomes cross and bored with his native 
instructors, and they with himj when the imprisonment 
in a profoundly alien and emotionally meaningless cul- 
tural atmosphere weighs heavily and everything tempts 
to desertion at any cost. In such moods the lagoon land- 
scape, so charming and so monotonous, symbolized this 
temptation, luring my eyes towards the dimly visible 
Koya, the southern mountains of the Amphlett and 
d'Entrecasteaux archipelagoes — ^where lay my road back 
to civilization. I looked at the scene on the beach (pi. 63) 
and envied some visitors from the south, who were due 
to sail home in a day or two. Conversation was flagging, 
and I could get nothing out of my informants, until we 
happened on the subject of the yausa. Immediately the 
natives became voluble and dramatic j their laughter and 
animation attracted other people, and soon I was sur- 
rounded by a group of men, among whom I was able 
to find some tolerably good informants for my future 
work. At the same time, I had a practical demonstration 
of the contrast between the way in which such a custom 



is represented by those who have it, and by those who 
do not. By the local men it was obviously caricatured 
as a shameful and savage habit 5 the men's derisive 
laughter and amused exaggerations were a clear indica- 
tion of how superior they felt to the benighted heathen 
who practised it. But the southern visitors, some of 
whom had come from Okayaulo and Bwadela, the home 
of the yausa, took, in a later conversation, a different 
view, showing no embarrassment whatever. They told 
me boastfully that no stranger ever dared to enter their 
district at that time, that they themselves were the only 
people free to walk about, that their women were the best 
garden-weeders and the most powerful people in the 
island. The two districts have been in contact for cen- 
turies, they speak the same language and have an identi- 
cal culture. Yet neither the custom of yausa nor the 
mental attitude which characterizes it have begun to 
diffuse. The mental attitudes are correlated and fit into 
each other, but each district adheres to its own prerogative 
of superiority, which consists in contradicting the other's 
point of view. 




In the course of this inquiry we have been gradually 
approaching our main interest, and taking an increasingly 
detailed view of native love-making. At first we merely 
made a general survey of the social organization and 
economic activities of the natives, in so far as they affect 
the relative positions of man and woman in the com- 
munity. We studied their associations and their diver- 
sions, in private and in public, at work and at play, in 
magical and religious pursuits, as well as in everyday life. 

Then coming nearer to our special subject we followed 
the typical progress of courtship, and found it leading 
to marriage and parenthood. In the last chapter wc de- 
scribed certain customs which enrich and diversify the 
normal course of courtship. 

In this chapter it will be necessary to observe the dal- 
liance of lovers at still closer quarters. We have to learn 
the nature of their love interest and of the bonds which 
unite them. 

Throughout my exposition, I have always attempted 
not only to state the norm, but to indicate the exceptions, 
to trace what might be called the amplitude of deviation, 
the margin within which people usually try, and some- 
times succeed, in circumventing the strict rule. As we 



proceed now to the study of more intimate behaviour, the 
elasticity of the rule becomes greater, and it grows more 
imperative to give a dynamic description of how a rule 
or an institution works, rather than how, in native theory, 
law and morality is supposed or desired to work. 

In general, as the ethnographer moves away from the 
big fundamental, well-defined institutions — such as fam- 
ily, marriage, kinship organization, the clan, exogamy, 
the rules of courtship — towards the manifold details of 
personal life, his methods of observation must become 
more complex and his results less reliable. This cannot 
be remedied and, for our comfort, it may be remembered 
that, even in the most exact fields of human thought and 
experience, a theoretical result can only be verified within 
certain limits. The most exact of human observations is 
only approximate, and all that even the chemist or physi- 
cist can do is to state the limits within which his error is 
encompassed. When investigating integral institutions, 
such as marriage or the family, the ethnographer should, 
if he be doing competent and intensive field-work, rely 
on observation rather than on what the native informants 
tell him. But when dealing with the subtler phases of 
behaviour, this rule cannot, unfortunately, always be fol- 
lowed. In the study of sexual attraction and the growth 
of a passion, direct observation is always difficult, and at 
times impossible, and a great deal of information has to 
be collected from confidences and gossip. 

The ethnographer must be alert to all that happens 
round him. He must patiently win his way into village 
life and make such personal friendships as encourage 



spontaneous confidences and the repetition of intimate 
gossip. He must check ad hoc statements by remarks 
dropped in more unguarded moments, explicating the im- 
plied and estimating the importance of reservations and 
reticences. For these are everywhere apt to be more 
illuminating than direct affirmations, and are especially so 
among these natives, whose keen sense of delicacy makes 
the roundabout and allusive way the natural approach to 
such subjects. It is possible to force them into speaking 
directly, but this always produces an artificial and false 
mental attitude, and exclusive reliance on such a method 
would lead to results which lack entirely the colour of 
real life. 

Thus in the most delicate subjects the ethnographer is 
bound to a large extent to depend on hearsay. Yet if 
he resides for a long time among the natives, speaks their 
language and makes close personal acquaintances, he will 
be provided with sufficiently useful information. His 
material will be certainly better than if it had been ob- 
tained through the mechanical pumping of informants by 
the question-and-answer method at so many sticks of 
tobacco an hour. 

Love is a passion to the Melanesian as to the Euro- 
pean, and torments mind and body to a greater or lesser 
extent 3 it leads to many an imfassey scandal, or tragedy 5 
more rarely, it illuminates life and makes the heart ex- 
pand and overflow with joy. "Out of a full heart the 
mouth speaketh," and the cold ethnographer must indus- 
triously jot down confidences poured out under the stress 
of strong personal emotion. Also the gossip of those not 



directly affected by the event, yet sufficiently interested 
in it to talk, especially if it be untoward — fuisquHl y a 
quelque chose dans les malheurs de nos amis qui ne nous 
deflalt fas — is scarcely less valuable material for the 

Spontaneous outpourings and village gossip dictated 
by genuine interest, records of past tragedies, and stories 
of erotic adventure, have yielded most of the raw material 
for the descriptions given in this chapter. And the direct 
knowledge of personal histories and interests made it 
possible for me to get a true perspective, to look at mat- 
ters from the native point of view. I was even often 
able to go behind the explicit statements of the natives, 
observing, as sometimes happened, that their actions and 
feelings belied their words, and following up the clue 
thus given me. 

The reader will remember the misadventures of 
Bagido'u, one of my best friends and informants (see 
pi. 64, and ch. vi, sec. i), the animosities and quarrels 
between Namwana Guya'u and Mitakata (see pi. 3 and 
ch. i, sec. 2), the boasting Gomaya and his relations to 
Ilamweria (see pi. 39 and ch. vii, sec. 4). It would 
have been impossible for me to ascertain the rules of 
custom and the moral ideas of the natives without the 
subjective outpourings of these friends of mine. 

Side by side with such live material, I naturally always 
endeavoured to collect objective "documents": records 
of historical events, samples of tradition, folk-lore and 
magic. Thus my general impressions, and strong but 
somewhat vague intuitions, were constantly checked and 



confirmed by data drawn from every sphere of tribal life. 
In fact, chronologically, the "documents" are usually ob- 
tained first, but their real comprehension can be gained 
only from the knowledge of real life. 

The reader interested in methodology will realize that 
this exposition by cumulative versions — passing from in- 
stitutions through the general record of a life history to 
the detailed and intimate analysis which follows — does 
justice not only to the nature of the material, but also to 
the manner of its collection. 

After this digression on the method of collecting data 
and of their presentation, let us return once more to a 
Trobriand village and approach a group of young people 
playing in the moonlight, in festive mood and dressy let 
us try to see them as they see each other j follow up their 
attractions and repulsions. So far we have kept at a 
discreet distance from the intimate behaviour, the motives 
and feelings of lovers. More especially we have never 
attempted to spy upon their passionate caresses. Now we 
must try to reconstruct the history of a personal intrigue, 
to understand the first impressions made by beauty and 
charm, and to follow the development of a passion to 
its end. 


What is it that makes the boys look with entranced 
attention at one among a group of girls, moving rhyth- 
mically in a game or carrying baskets at harvest 3 or that 
fascinates the girls in one of the dancers who lead the 



ring of swift runners in a kaydebu dance? (See pi. 6$.) 
Is it possible for us to find out why a member of either 
sex is almost universally rejected and why another is 
sought after J why one category is labelled as plain or 
unattractive and another as fascinating and beautiful? 
The European observer soon finds that his standard of 
personal charm does not essentially differ from that of the 
natives, when he has once become accustomed to the 
physical type and to the mannerisms of the Melanesians. 
Thus, for instance, the girl on plate 66 is universally 
regarded as a beauty, the one on plate 67 as a plain 
woman 3 and with this opinion the reader will not disagree. 
And yet the latter is a well-built woman and of a pro- 
nounced Melanesian type. But it would be perhaps diffi- 
cult and certainly useless to convey native standards of 
beauty by means of European phrases and comparisons. 
Fortunately there are a number of native expressions, 
descriptions and categories which furnish some sort of 
objective material, and together with the ethnographer's 
commentary, may convey a fairly adequate idea of the 
Trobriander's ideal of beauty. 

It must be understood that the problem of erotic 
charm with which we are now engaged, is different from 
that discussed in chapter iv, which was concerned with the 
motives which lead a Trobriand man or woman to enter 
upon matrimony. In this connection, we found that 
personal preference, though a powerful inducement to 
marriage, was only one among others, some social, some 
economic and some domestic. And even in the matter 
of personal preference, the erotic motive is not exclusive. 



A man or woman of mature age will choose a domestic 
partner quite different from the paramour who occupied 
the best part of his or her youth. Marriage is often 
determined by the attraction of character and personality 
rather than by sexual adaptation or erotic seduction. This 
fact, which has been already mentioned, I found con- 
firmed in many concrete cases and in a hundred details. 
Only in the passing intrigues is simple bodily charm the 
principal attraction. Let us return then to our imaginary 
pair and try to find out what it is that they see in each 
other, as lovers. 

When treating of love in fiction or anthropology, it 
is easier and more pleasant to imagine objects really 
worthy of admiration. In the Trobriands it would not 
be difficult to find them, even for one equipped with 
European taste and Nordic race prejudices j for, within 
a considerable variety of types, there are to be found 
men and women with regular delicate features, well-built 
lithe bodies, clear skins, and that personal charm which 
predisposes us towards a man, a nationality, or a race. 

Verbal descriptions of a racial type are always weak 
and unconvincing. They may be couched in anthropo- 
metric terms and backed by numerical data, but these give 
little help to the imagination and could only stimulate a 
physical anthropologist. It is better for the reader to look 
at pictures, in this book and in other works where the 
Trobrianders have been described,^ and to hear what the 

1 As, for instance, in C. G. Seligman, op. cit., and in Argonauts of the 
Western Pacific. For comparative anthropometric data concerning Mela- 
nesians and Papuans, cf. "A Classification of the Natives of British New 
Guinea," J^ourn. R. Anthrop, Inst., vol. xxxix, 1909, by C. G. Seligman. 



natives themselves have to say on the subject o£ beauty 
and its opposite. 

The natives are never at a loss when asked what ele- 
ments go to the making o£ personal beauty in man or 
woman. The subject is not only interesting to them as to 
all other human beings, but it is surrounded by a rich folk- 
lore and therefore commands an extensive vocabulary. 
Many of their legends and songs have been specially com- 
posed to exalt some famous dancer or singer, and in such 
texts there are descriptions of ornament and dress, and 
expressive phrases referring to personal appearance. The 
charms used in beauty magic give instructive indications of 
the Trobriander's desires and ideals, as do also the laments 
for the dead, and descriptions of the blissful life in Tuma, 
the land of the departed. 

But although the renown and tradition of famous 
beauties is handed down for generations with rich de- 
scriptive details, it is difficult for the ethnographer to find 
a living model for his inquiry. Whenever I asked any 
of the old, and therefore expert, connoisseurs of beauty 
whether any living woman could match the radiant 
divinities drawn from their own and their father's 
memories, the answer was always in the negative. The 
Golden Age of real beauty seems to be quite over! 

Let us approach the ideal of beauty by way of its nega- 
tion, and see what, for the native, makes a person ugly 



and repulsive, and therefore impossible from the erotic 
standpoint. Deformity and disease in mind or body, old 
age and albinism, all, according to native statements, put 
a person beyond the pale of erotic interest. The ex- 
pressions fnlgtla gaga (his face bad), or tomlgaga (ugly 
man, literally man — face — ^ugly) are frequently in use, 
and often with the added comment: "No one would sleep 
with such an one." 

Malformations are rare, and I myself cannot recall 
a single hunchback or congenitally deformed person. 
Through accident men may lose a limb: kaykela ifwase 
(his leg has rotted away) 3 yamda ifwase (his arm has 
rotted away) j but the most frequent congenital defect is 
that of speech, which the natives describe by the same 
word, tonagoway as is applied to idiocy and feeble- 

The bad or repulsive characters of folk-lore are also 
endowed with bodily deformities or abnormalities. 
Dokonikan, the most prominent ogre of Kiriwinian folk- 
lore, has several rows of teeth and cannot speak properly. 
Women covered with hair and men with disgusting bodies 
figure in some fairy tales. 

As regards disease: sores, ulcers, and skin eruptions are 
naturally held to be specially repulsive from the view- 
point of erotic contact. Also to be so afflicted is the usual 
punishment for breaking certain taboos. Indeed, a num- 
ber of such taboos are only observed by young men, and 
have no other raison d^etre than to prevent their skins 
from being covered with sores. They might be called 
specific beauty taboos. Thus, it is dangerous to eat fish 



which is not quite fresh, or fish which has a very strong 
flavour. Some kinds of fish are covered with unseemly 
scales or spots, and these also are forbidden to young 
men and women. Young people must abstain from yams 
or fish which have been cut with a sharp instrument. 
Similar taboos have to be kept by men about to sail on 
an overseas expedition; they will say that they must only 
eat "good fish" so that their faces may be beautiful.^ 

The unpleasant disease, tropical ring-worm, covering 
the skin with perpetually peeling scales, and very prev- 
alent among Melanesians, is said to be a definite draw- 
back, and persons with this disease would not be reckoned 
among the beauties even if their faces were fine. But it 
does not seem to form a positive bar to love-making, any 
more than to other pursuits. On the other hand, this 
repulsive and contagious affliction is a real inconvenience 
to the field-worker, who has constantly to deal with 
afflicted natives and takes a long time to become accus- 
tomed to it. 

Old age is felt to be a serious handicap in affairs of 
.gallantry. The contrast between repulsive old age and 
attractive youth is brought out clearly in myth. A hero, 
who is unsuccessful because of his elderly appearance, 
becomes rejuvenated and gets everything that he wants. 
First the marks scored upon him by the hand of time are 
ruthlessly enumerated: a wrinkled skin, white hair, and 
toothless jaws. Then the magical change is described: 
his rounded face, the smooth full lines of his body, his 
sleek, glossy skin, the thick black hair covering his head, 

1 Cf. Argonauts of the Western Pacific, p. 336. 



the beautiful black teeth shining between vermilion lips. 
Now he can win the favours of desirable women, and im- 
pose his wishes on men and Fate. Such pictures are drawn 
in two of the chief myths of the kula (the ceremonial 
exchange), which plays such a great part in tribal life, and 
shows so many psychological affinities to their erotic in- 
terests. Similar pictures are also to be found in the myth 
of rejuvenation, in the ideas of the natives concerning a 
future life, and in one or two fairy tales.^ 

Obesity is extremely rare, and in its more pronounced 
forms is classed as a disease. Baldness is not infrequent. 
It is considered a blemish, and a certain amount of criti- 
cism is contained in the word tokuluhakami (bald man, 
literally man-occiput empty-space). To a Kiriwinian, 
however, it is not so fatal as it is to his European contem- 
porary, for wigs are still used in that happy island (pi. 
68). Either a narrow band of hair is tied just above the 
forehead — a sort of fuzzy wreath — or a wig covering the 
whole head is worn. The wig is made by sewing tufts of 
hair on to a skull cap made of plaited fibre or string. The 
hair is easily obtained, for mourning customs demand that 
every member of the afflicted community, with the excep- 
tion of the deceased's clansmen, shall shave off his beau- 
tiful mop of hair. 

Cutting off the hair is not the only mourning custom 
which aims at the reduction of personal charm. The 
transformation in appearance imposed by mourning em- 
bodies, to a certain extent, the native idea of what is ugly. 

1 For the hula myth cf. Argonauts, pp. 307-10 and 322-4, and Myfh in 
Primitive Psychology, 1926. 



The shaven head, the body blackened with a thick layer 
of mixed grease and charcoal, colourless and purposely 
soiled dress, no ornaments and no scents — these are the 
outward signs of bereavement. The transformation un- 
dergone by a woman in mourning is shown in the frontis- 
piece, where two girls, equally pretty under normal con- 
ditions, can be contrasted. In fact, the idea that the chief 
mourner, especially the widow, should be made ugly so 
that she may not attract other men, is explicitly stated by 
natives, and is also implied in the whole scheme of mor- 
tuary proceedings, apart from the alteration in appearance 
(see ch. vi). 

The essential conditions of personal charm are now 
obvious 5 normal bodily build, health, absence of mental 
and functional disorders, strong growth of hair, sound 
teeth, and a smooth skin — all signs of vigour and of a 
good constitution. 

But an important caution must here be entered. Na- 
tives speak with such horror about the various forms of 
ugliness, and repulsion is so clearly discernible in their 
behaviour that there is no temptation to doubt their word. 
In fact, in games and amusements, an albino, an idiot, or 
a man afflicted with skin disease is so completely left out 
of the fun that his loneliness and isolation wake pity 
even in the frigid heart of an ethnographer. Thus ob- 
servation fully confirmed the verbal proposition in which 
all the natives are agreed, that all such people are abso- 
lutely debarred from sexual intercourse and that they 
have to resort to solitary means of satisfaction. Never- 
theless, I began to doubt its validity, when, in the course 



of my field-work, this very proposition was adduced as 
proof, with many illustrative examples, that a woman can 
have children without sexual intercourse (see ch. vii, 3 
and 4). Tilapo'i (to quote cases already mentioned) had 
one child, Kurayana as many as sixj while a few albino 
girls have been blessed with numerous offspring j yet: "No 
man would approach them, they are so repulsive" was 
made the major premise of the syllogism — though many 
of my informants must have known better! 

The more thorough research which followed my reali- 
zation of this discrepancy revealed the astonishing fact 
that strong and, no doubt, genuine physical repulsion does 
not prevent a Melanesian from the sexual act. This prob- 
ably has some connection with their manner of carrying 
out this physiological activity. I was able to ascertain that 
the ugliest and most repulsive people have, not only spo- 
radic, but regular intercourse. Orato'u, a tonagowa — 
meaning in this case, not an idiot but one afflicted with 
defective speech and a repulsively deformed face — can 
always obtain favours from the village beauties of Omara- 
kana, the residence of the paramount chief, whose hench- 
man he is and whose wives he is said to know intimately 
enough. The albino seen on pi. 3 8 has had several noto- 
rious love affairs. In most of the villages where I worked 
I could mention a few old and thoroughly repulsive 
women who were able, especially if they or their hus- 
bands were of high rank, to obtain young and attractive 
boys as lovers. 

When I discussed this with my friend, the late Billy 
Hancock of Gusaweta — a trader of exceptional intelli- 



gence and one of the finest men I have known — he told 
me that he had long ago arrived at the same conclusion 
independently, and quoted from memory a number of 
striking instances, in some of which the women were re- 
pugnant, as he said, "far beyond the toleration of a 
drunken sailor." He also mentioned the experience of a 
medical officer, especially appointed in the Trobriands for 
the treatment of venereal disease. This official was once 
baffled by finding all the boys in a community afflicted 
with very virulent and obviously recent gonorrhea, while 
all the women to be considered in this connection were as 
yet quite healthy. Finally he obtained a confession from 
one of his patients that he and his companions had copu- 
lated among others with a woman so old, decrepit, and 
ugly, that the medical officer had thankfully and unhesi- 
tatingly omitted her in his several inspections. It was 
found that she was the source of infection, and that she 
had for a long time been active in persuading boys to 
copulation. The boys, on discovery, tried to belittle the 
fact and to present the whole matter as a joke, but they 
were in reality rather mortified. The attitude of my in- 
formants when I confronted them with such and similar 
facts was also "ambivalent." They had to admit that 
some people will copulate with repulsive women, but they 
treated it simply as the sign that such people are of un- 
sound mind. 

This was one more of the several cases in which I found 
how strongly convention (ideals of behaviour) obsesses 
the mind of the natives, but only on the surface and con- 
trolling their statements rather than their behaviour. 



Things about which he would not like even to speak, 
much less admit to having done, a native simply denies 
with consistency and vigour, although he is perfectly 
aware that they do happen, perhaps even under his own 
roof. Tout comme chez nous! 


Vigour, vitality, and strength, a well-proportioned 
body, a smooth and properly pigmented, but not too 
dark skin are the basis of physical beauty for the native. 
In all the phases of village life I have seen admiration 
drawn and held by a graceful, agile and well-balanced 
person. The same generalization can be inductively 
drawn from what we shall say here of the native canons 
of perfection in form and colour, bodily smell, quality of 
voice, and grace of movement. 

Since the natives have an extended view of each other's 
bodies, there is no artificial barrier to their sesthetic interest 
in themj nor are the various elements in erotic fascination 
placed in the false perspective which makes our full Eu- 
ropean clothing the instrument of artificial modesty as 
well as of disguised allurement, so that an estimation of 
erotic values is difficult and complex, and is based on 
fashions in dress as well as on the appreciation of physical 
beauty. With this advantage over us, it is a notable fact 
that their main erotic interest is f ocussed on the human 
head and face. In the formulas of beauty magic, in the 
vocabulary of human attractions, as well as in the ar- 



senal of ornament and decoration, the human face — eyes, 
mouth, nose, teeth, and hair — ^takes precedence. It must 
be observed that the head plays an important part in magic 
as an object for admiration, and not as the seat of the 
erotic emotions, for these are placed in the lower part of 
the belly. For the rest of the body, the breasts in the 
woman and build and size in the man are most important, 
with the colour and the quality of their skins. In certain 
magical formulas, all the limbs and portions of the human 
torso are enumerated, besides the features of the face and 
head. In others, however, only the latter are mentioned. 

The outline of the face is very important 5 it should be 
full and well rounded. The phrases miltyaflla (like the 
full moon) j ifnilibwata (like the round moon) ; kalubu- 
hovatu (its roundness), appear frequently in magical for- 
mulas. The forehead must be small and smooth. The 
word talisalisa (to smooth) recurs in beauty charms. Full 
cheeks, a chin neither protruding nor too small, a com- 
plete absence of hair on the face, but the scalp hair de- 
scending well on to the forehead, are all desiderata of 

Cosmetics are used on the face more than on any other 
part of the body. Facial painting {soba) is done in black, 
red, and white (pi. 76). For the red, either a compound 
of betel-nut and lime is used or red ochre. Certain forms 
of clay, sometimes mixed with crushed coral, were for- 
merly used to produce white 5 but nowadays European 
white lead has taken the place of this, though red is still 
usually made with native pigments. Black can be put on, 
either with simple charred coco-nut fibre or some other 



form of charcoal, or else with a mixture of this and an 
aromatic oil, prepared by cutting aromatic wood into small 
pieces and boiling it in coco-nut oil. The wood preferred 
in this preparation is called sayakuy and it is, I think, 
sandal wood imported from the eastern islands (Wood- 
lark and Marshall Bennett). A similar though less ap- 
preciated wood, kadikokoy is found in the Trobriands and 
can be used for the same purpose. The strongly scented 
mixture is kept in coco-nut oil bottles and used for the 
tracing of fine lines on the face. The natives make a 
clear distinction between decorative painting {soba)j which 
enhances their beauty, and smothering themselves in soot 
{koido) in order to extinguish all their attractions in sign 
of mourning. 

Having indicated the general character of facial beauty, 
let us proceed to the details. The eyes, as we know, are 
to the natives the gateways of erotic desire (ch. vii, i)j 
they are also, in themselves, a centre of erotic interest. 
Biting off the eyelashes, the custom of muakuku as it is 
called, plays an important part in love-making. The 
expression agu mitakuku ("my bitten-off eyelashes") is a 
term of endearment. The eyes are frequently referred 
to in the magic of beauty: mitayan (shining eyes) ^ mituh- 
woyili (lovely eyes) 5 mitapwa^i (bright eyes). Eyes 
should be shining, but they should be small. On this 
point the natives are quite decided. Large eyes, fuynor- 
fuynay are ugly. There is no special beauty treatment 
for the eyes, except, of course, shaving the eyebrows 
which, together with the biting ofF of eyelashes, leaves 
them singularly naked to European taste. Neither is any 



magic specifically devoted to their lustre and other charms. 

Next to the eyes, the mouth is, perhaps, the most im- 
portant feature. It plays a conspicuous part in love-mak- 
ing, and its beauty is highly esteemed in native aesthetics. 
It should be very full, but well cut. Protruding lips 
{ka^uvala^u wadola) are considered as unattractive as 
pinched or thin ones {kaywoya wadola). Very ugly, I 
was told, is a hanging lower lip. There is a special magic 
of beauty associated with the mouth. It is the magic of 
taloy the red paint made of betel-nut, which is used to 
redden the lips. 

The nose should be full and fleshy, but not too large. 
A nose, which the natives call kafatatdy that is long, nar- 
row and sharp, in short aquiline, is ugly. A beautiful 
nose is called kabuUtoto (standing-up nose), for too flat 
a one is also a serious blemish, and men or women so 
handicapped are called tonafa^i or nanapaH according to 
sex. A nose-stick used to be considered aesthetically in- 
dispensable, but it is now gradually going out of fashion, 
and there is no magic associated with this ornament or its 

The ears must be neither too small nor too large — a 
safe rule to follow for all parts of the body, whether in 
the Trobriands or elsewhere. Ears that stand out from 
the head {tiginayd) are distinctly ugly. Every ear must 
be pierced at the lobe and ornamented with ear-rings. 
The hole is made early in childhood by placing on the 
ear a turtle shell ring which has been cut and the ends 
sharpened, so that the points gradually work their way 
through the gristle. The resultant small hole is then 



gradually enlarged until a considerable opening sur- 
rounded by a pendulous ring is formed in the lobe. This 
is filled with ear-rings of turtle shell and other orna- 
ments, especially red discs made of spondylus shell. Such 
treatment of the ear is de rigueurj otherwise a man or 
woman would be said to have tegibwalodila (ears like a 
bush pig). 

Teethj in order to be really attractive, have to be black- 
ened {kuduhwa^u: literally black teeth, or gigiremutu: an 
expression for the process). This blackening is done by 
placing a piece of a special mangrove root against the 
teeth overnight and repeating the process over a long pe- 
riod. The majority of the Trobrianders do not, however, 
blacken their teeth. 

Hair in its proper place is considered a great beauty, 
but, as we know, it must not be allowed to grow anywhere 
except on the scalp. Eyebrows are shaved off, the beard 
is never allowed to grow except by old men "who do not 
wish to have anything to do with women." Hair is never 
pulled out J it is always shaved, in the old days with ob- 
sidian, at present with bottle glass. The hair on the head 
is admired when it is very full, and then it is allowed to 
grow into a thick mop of which almost every hair radi- 
ates from the scalp, in the manner so characteristic of 

The natives distinguish black, light and grey hair 
{yahwahwa^Uy yadidaydaya and yasoso^u). The albino 
is called tofwaka^Uy "man with white hair," or tososo^Uy 
"man with grey hair." They further classify it as 
straight-to-wavy (yasinare^i or yasisiye^i) ; curly {yasusay- 



hulu)\ thick and moppy {yamtumwatu)\ tangled and 
almost matted {yakulufaki or yatutuya). The two mid- 
dle qualities are considered beautiful 5 but the straight-to- 
wavy and the matted kinds are not. As to the trimming 
and dressing of it, the really typical Melanesian mop, 
gugwafo^Uy is the favourite mode. When it is cut round 
the sides and back and left long on top, giving the head 
an elongated cylindrical form, it is called bobobu. Some- 
times when a man comes out of mourning, the hair is 
allowed to grow in the middle of the head, while the 
edges are kept shaved 5 this is called takwadoya. Hair 
which is growing after mourning is called sayva^u while 
it is still short. Persons of rank in mourning have the 
privilege of leaving some hair at the back of the head 
near the nape of the neck (pi. 25). This grows into long 
strands which are plaited sometimes and are called saysuya 
(literally, "ringlets"). 

Body hair {unu^unu — a word also given to the growth 
on yam tubers, on the backs of leaves and so forth) is 
regarded as ugly and is kept shaven. Only in myth and 
in fairy tale do certain people appear who are covered 
with unu^unu'y to the natives a grotesque and at the same 
time a perverse characteristic. 

Hair dressing plays a great part in the personal toilet. 
Trimming is done by means of a sharpened mussel shell 
{kaniku) and the hair is cut off in tufts against a piece 
of wood. It is combed or teased with a long-pronged 
wooden comb {smata)'j and one of the most important 
types of beauty magic is done over the comb. We have 
seen that teasing out the hair {fulufuluy wayfulu or 



waynoku) is the centre of certain festivals {kayasa)j 
which are really organized solely for the display of this 
beauty. Nails are cut and trimmed with sharpened mus- 
sel shell. 

A slim, straight, tall body is much admired in a man. 
Kaysakiy like a "swift long canoe," kuytubo^ like a rounded: 
tree, are both terms of praise, of which the latter shows- 
that emaciation is not an asset. Kaylohu — well adorned,, 
well trimmed — expresses the same idea. All three words 
occur in the lament of a widow for her young husbands 

In women, also, a slim body without excessive ab- 
dominal development is considered desirable. Kaygumita 
(slirn), nasasaka (small-bellied), are words of praise. 
Napofoma (pot-bellied), nasoka (with the body like a 
globe-fish), on the contrary, express disapproval. 

A woman's breasts are of special importance. The 
same word nunu is used to describe the female breast, 
the nipple in man or woman, the central portion of the 
male chest, and milk. There are a number of partly 
metaphorical, partly specific expressions to describe the 
sesthetic appearance of the female breasts. Nutaviya 
(like the taviya^ a small round fruit) describes a full, 
round, firm formation j and nufiyakwa, a word the ety- 
mology of which I was unable to trace, has the same 
connotation. Nupfisiga or nupisiga is applied to small, 
undeveloped, girlish breasts, which are considered less 
attractive than the first category. For flabby breasts the 
word nusawewo is used, a compound of the specific prefix 
nu and the word sawewby to hang limply down, as, for 
instance, a ripe fruit hangs. Another apt simile is con- 



tained in the word nukaybwibwiy in which long, thin, 
pendent breasts are compared to the aerial roots of the 
pandanus tree. Breasts wrinkled and flabby with age are 
called fwanunuy the prefix px)a meaning deterioration 
and nunu being the specific noun. The meaning of this 
word has become extended to describe wrinkled skin in 

Firm, well-developed breasts are admirable in a 
woman. Adolescent girls massage (j*uwoli) their breasts, 
which then may also be called nu*ulawolu (literally, mas- 
saged breasts). When a lover prefers his girl with small 
breasts, he will say, yoku tage kuwoU nunum; kwunufisiga 
("Do not thou massage thy breasts, remain with girlish 

To return to physical beauty in general, it has already 
been mentioned that smoothness of skin and a full brown 
colour are much sought after. In magical formulas, 
smooth objects with a pleasant surface are often men- 
tioned in this connection: fish without scales, trees with 
smooth bark, smooth, rounded shells. As to the colour, 
dark brown is decidedly a disadvantage. In the magic of 
washing and in other beauty formulae, a desirable skin is 
compared with white flowers, moonlight, and the morning 
star. Pregnancy magic has already given us an example 
of this ideal of bodily perfection. But deficient pigmen- 
tation is not admired 5 and the insipid, pale yellowish 
brown which is sometimes found, is as unpleasant to the 
Trobriander as to the European. Albinos, with their 
flaxen hair and long golden body fluff, their enormous 



freckles, as if something dirty and brown had been 
splashed over them, produce an unpleasant impression on 
European and native alike (pi. 38). 


The main care of the body is directed to cleanliness. 
The natives have an extreme sensitiveness to smell and to 
bodily dirt. Kakaya (bathing, or washing all over with 
plenty of water) is the first act in all ceremonial orna- 
mentation, and is a frequent one at other times. The 
natives often rinse their hands and wash their faces, such 
minor ablutions being called wini. Washing before a 
grand toilet is always followed by anointing {futuma) 
with coco-nut oil, which gives a fine lustre to the skin and 
is also a strong and lasting deodorizer. If possible, some 
perfume is added to the oil: pandanus flower, gayawOy the 
aromatic butia blossom, and other scented flowers and 
herbs according to the season, are used for this purpose j 
as is the aromatic paint, sayakuy which has already been 

Dried and bleached leaves are the material for native 
dress, the men using the pandanus — or, to produce a 
garment of a finer quality, the areca palm — and the 
women, banana leaves (see pi. 69). Their dress is of the 
slightest, especially for men, who only wear a pubic leaf. 
This is a narrow band which covers the pubic regions, the 
lower part of the abdomen, and the back up to the first 



lumbar vertebrae. The band is attached, front and back, 
to a belt. Usually above this support the man wears 
another ornamental belt, made sometimes of valuable 
material. The pubic leaf is very carefully adjusted, so 
that the limited area which modesty demands should be 
hidden remains always precisely and carefully covered. 
Men very seldom take off their pubic leaf, except in 
the intimacy of their sleeping place. Only when fish- 
ing or bathing with other men is it removed. The word 
yavi- (pubic leaf) takes the same suffixed possessive pro- 
nouns as are only otherwise used with parts of the human 
body (yavigu, my leaf j yavim, thy leaf j yavila, his leaf j 
and so on). This gives a grammatical expression to the 
intimate union of this garment with the male body. 

Women wear skirts made of narrow strips of vegetable 
fibre, variously prepared and coloured. A full descrip- 
tion of the technology of Trobriand "models" and of 
feminine psychology in the always important matter of 
dress would lead to a voluminous dissertation. To be 
brief: women wear an underskirt and a top skirt. At 
home and among intimate friends and when at work, the 
top skirt is taken off, and only the petticoat remains (see 
pis. 9, 1 8, 21 ). This is usually shabby and always scanty; 
but it adequately fulfils all the demands of modesty. 
The overskirts are full and sometimes very thick. At 
ordinary seasons and for ordinary purposes they are not 
artificially stained and show only their natural rich gold- 
and-silver colour of dried coco-nut or banana leaf. In 
times of mourning and during menstruation, slightly 
longer skirts are worn. For bathing or during rain, coco- 



nut fibre Is preferred to other materials. The greatest 
variety of colour and form is seen in the gala skirts worn 
during harvest and at festivities (pis. 13, 61, 69). These 
display radiant combinations of colour, all the range of 
materials available and great ingenuity in "cut." The 
word for the female garment is dohay also used with 
aifixes of nearest possession. In its compound form it 
changes some of its vowels, as dabegUy my skirt, daheryiy 
dahelay and so forth. 

The more important ornaments have already been 
mentioned incidentally. The natives adorn themselves 
with wreaths of aromatic blossom j put flowers, especially 
the red hibiscus, in their hair, and aromatic herbs or long 
leaves and streamers into their armlets. Necklaces of 
shell and wild banana seed are worn, and armlets on the 
upper arm. All men and women wear ear-rings and 

The body, as distinguished from the face, is very sel- 
dom painted, and no tattoo markings are ever visible. I 
am told that girls at the time of their first menstruation 
are tattooed round the vagina. This tattooing is called 
k?uk?Uy and is done, according to my informants, for 
aesthetic purposes. Also men and women burn marks on 
their forearms, as an adornment. 

One more personal charm must be mentioned — ^the 
voice. The good singer is only second in renown to the 
good dancer. The power of a beautiful voice is known 
and praised far and wide, and many instances of seduc- 
tion by song are quoted. Perhaps the most notorious is 



that of Mokadayu, whose success. with the fair sex cul- 
minated in an incestuous liaison with his own sister, one 
of the most beautiful girls in the village/ 

As a background to Trobriand ideals of beauty, it may 
be interesting to hear the natives' comments on other 
racial types. Though other natives are generally consid- 
ered less attractive than one's own tribe, distinctions are 
made and degrees of ugliness gradated. The pure Papuan 
type from the Papuan Gulf and from the northern coast, 
who are now frequently seen in the Trobriands with white 
men, are undoubtedly classed as the least attractive. 
Their ugliness is chiefly ascribed to their dark skin; it is, 
in fact, much darker than the Trobriander's, and has a 
characteristic chocolate tinge. Their pronouncedly frizzy 
hair and their strange manner of dressing it in plaits and 
fringes is also regarded as very unbecoming. Unattrac- 
tive, too, are their prominent thin lips and their large, 
aquiline, almost Jewish noses, set in a long narrow face. 
These criticisms were made to me on the occasion of a 
series of dances performed by Papuan Gulf natives who 
had been employed on one of the plantations. Their 
dancing was genuinely admired, but not their physical 
appearance. The Dobuans with their dark skin, their 
thick-set build, and their short necks, are often made fun 
of by the Trobrianders. The more distant natives from 
the Eastern Archipelagos, the Southern Massim, receive 
much higher marks for beauty. In spite of the fact that 
they are more distant strangers to the Trobrianders than 

1 Compare Sex and Repression, 1927, part ii, ch. iv, and ch. xiv, 3, of 
this work, where the story of Mokadayu is given. 



are the Dobuans, the natives realize that they are racially 
akin and say: "They are like us, fine-looking." 

Europeans, the natives frankly say, are not good-look- 
ing. The straight hair "coming round the heads of 
women like threads of im^^ (coarse pandanus fibre used 
for making strings) 5 the nose, "sharp like an axe blade" j 
the thin lips 5 the big eyes, "like water puddles" 3 the 
white skin with spots on it like those of an albino — all 
these the natives say (and no doubt feel) are ugly. It 
is only fair to observe, in justice to their good manners 
and personal urbanity, that they were quick to add that 
the ethnographer was a meritorious exception to the rule. 
They always told me that I looked much more like a 
Melanesian than like an ordinary white man. They even 
fortified this compliment by specific documentation: thick 
lips, small eyes, absence of any sharp outline in the nose, 
were credited to me as assets. The only points on which 
they were discreet and honest enough not to compliment 
me were my forehead and my hair. I am afraid, how- 
ever, that the Trobrianders are more polite than truthful, 
and it must be remembered that personal praise is by right 
of custom always repaid with a suitable gift of tobacco or 
betel-nut, which, rather than sesthetic conviction, may 
have been the motive of the compliment (see, however, 
pi. 68). 

It is clear, then, that the Trobrianders prefer their 
own racial type, and that this is not mere parochial con- 
ceit, since they make reasoned distinctions between other 
types and give praise where it is due. Thus the Southern 
Massim they regard as their equals 5 and are even ready 



to admit that the Eastern portion of the Northern Mas- 
sim, the natives of Woodlark Island and the Marshall 
Bennett group, are their superiors in personal appearance. 
I may add that, in common with all strangers, I was less 
susceptible at first to individual differences and more im- 
pressed by the general type. But with greater familiarity, 
I also came to feel that too dark or too yellow a skin, too 
straight or too frizzy hair, a mouth as thin as that of a. 
European, and an aquiline nose were features unpleasant 
in a Melanesian. At the same time I became able to ap- 
preciate beauty within the racial type and de facto always 
knew more or less who would be attractive to a native, 
and who not. Even the artificial transformations — shiny 
black teeth in thick vermilion lips, graceful scrolls painted 
in three colours over the face, flaming hibiscus blossoms 
in the thick black mop of hair, golden brown skins, glossy 
with coco-nut oil — ceased to impress me as mere grotesque 
masquerade, and I saw them as becoming adjuvants to 
personal beauty. After all, it takes us some time to be- 
come accustomed to the changing fashions of our own 
race and to detect beauty where at first we were only able 
to see caricature. 

I still remember the feeling of slight surprise at the 
formula of beauty with which the old chief To'uluwa 
started my first discussion of the subject: 

^^Migila bubowatu; matala kuvikekita; 

"Face his (hers) rounded^ eye his (hers) small 5 

kabulula kaykekita; kudula sene 

nose his (hers) small ^ tooth his (hers) very 



kobwabwa^U'y kulula sene kohuhowatu?^ 

blackened j hair his (hers) very rounded off." 

This terse sentence roughly summarizes the results of our 
study, and gives an approximate standard of personal 
beauty. It presents a blend of cultural values, biological 
impulses and racial preferences. The point of view can 
be understood by a European 5 that is, if he can maintain 
the feeling of human or biological solidarity across racial 
and cultural differences, and a sufficient mental plasticity 
to become thoroughly familiar with the cultural and 
aesthetic standards of another people. 


To understand the effect of personal charm on the na- 
tive, it may be helpful to present a typical Trobriand 
love affair against the background of Western romance. 

Love is precipitated with them, as with us, by the first 
shock received from beauty and personality j but a world 
of customary and cultural differences divides the after- 
effects of this. The initial barriers preventing a rapid 
sexual intimacy between two people in love, which are so 
characteristic of all higher civilizations, for us endow the 
beloved with inestimable virtues and enclose him or her 
in an aura of holy and mysterious desirability. In men 
whose creative imagination is developed beyond their 
practical sense of the realities, such passionate attachments 
may lead simply to day-dreaming and excessive shyness 



in the romantic relation, or to such outpourings as we find 
in Vita Nuova or Petrarch's Sonnets. This shy, self- 
centred adoration, this extreme creative exaltation of the 
eternal-feminine — of the Beatrice or Gretchen leading 
man into the presence of God — is a real type of Western 
romance, standardized in some of the highest works of 
art, but existing also in many not gifted with the power 
of self-expression. The reaction against this same arti- 
ficially fostered mystery and the consequent idealization 
of woman, is seen with opposite results in the invective 
and indictment of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. 

The man in the street, who sustains the same shock, 
does not write sonnets, but none the less he surrounds 
the object of his serious affection with a more temperate 
exaltation and worship. At the same time his emotion 
finds practical expression, and he seeks every opportunity 
for closer acquaintance. If liking ripens into mutual love, 
the affair will follow the customary course of courtship, 
engagement, and marriage. A man and woman may be 
driven by natural passion to the final consummation, 
athwart all social or moral rules, but it is none the less 
true that real love leads men and women of our culture, 
not to the direct satisfaction of the sexual urge, but to a 
gradual blending of sensuous elements with the general 
spiritual attraction. Personal intimacy in a full common 
life, legally sanctioned, is the direct goal of our romantic 
ideology, and the rest, including sexual relations, follows 
as a tacit implication. 

Let us turn to an average Melanesian youth attracted 
by a girl who is not put beyond his reach by the taboos 



of kinship, social standing, or too great a difference in 
personal charm. In him, also, the first impression pro- 
duces an aesthetic and sensuous reaction which transforms 
its cause into something desirable, valuable, and worthy 
of strenuous effort. But the feeling of mystery, the desire 
to worship at a distance or merely to be admitted into her 
presence, is not there. The Trobriand boy has had many 
sexual experiences with girls of the same type as his new 
ideal 3 and, from childhood, the attraction of beauty and 
direct erotic approach have been intimately associated in 
his experience. He has not to stumble upon the final ful- 
filment of erotic desire, he immediately anticipates it. All 
the customs, arrangements, and codes of behaviour dic- 
tate simple, direct approach, as we shall see in the fol- 
lowing description. 

An interesting sidelight is thrown upon Trobriand 
courtship by the customs in other Melanesian communi- 
ties, where sexual freedom is much more restricted, and 
where the gradual approach and something of romantic 
love exist. In the nearest ethnographic region to the 
south, the Amphletts, and in the next one to this, which 
is inhabited by the Dobuan tribe, prenuptial intercourse 
is regarded as reprehensible, and custom does not en- 
courage the free mixing of children in erotic games nor 
open untrammelled intercourse between boys and girls, 
nor institutions such as the bukumatula (bachelors' and 
girls' house). From a limited experience in the Am- 
phletts, I received the impression that prenuptial inter- 
course hardly exists at all, and in Dobu it is certainly much 
more restricted than in the Trobriands. Correlated with 



this, we find a number of arrangements which allow of a 
prolonged courtship and which are symptomatic of a love 
not specifically directed towards sexual intercourse. I was 
told that both districts have love songs and that the boys 
court by playing on pan-pipes or on a Jew's-harp j also 
that boys and girls meet at games and in amusements for 
the sake of personal acquaintance and social intercourse 
only. During the later stages of courtship and before 
marriage, a boy is allowed to visit his betrothed at her 
parents' house, but there is no cohabitation, and only con- 
versation and caresses pass between them. A similar state 
of affairs exists with the Western Papuo-Melanesian 
tribes, among several of whom I conducted more or less 
prolonged investigations. These data, however, I submit 
with caution, and they are in no way comparable to my 
observations among the Trobrianders. They are based 
entirely on statements obtained from informants ad hocy 
and not on the spontaneous material which comes to hand 
with long residence in a country.^ 

The love-sick Trobriander, however, taught by custom 
to be direct in amorous pursuits, proceeds at once to the 
approved methods of approach. 

The simplest of these is direct personal solicitation. 
From previous descriptions of sexual licence, we know 
that there are numerous opportunities for a boy to express 
his desire, or for a girl to induce him to do so (see ch. ix). 
This is perfectly easy within the same village community. 


Australia, 1915, pp. 559-64, and the references there given 

Seligman, op. cit. 



When the two belong to different villages, certain fes- 
tivals bring them together j they can speak to each other, 
and indulge in the preliminaries of love during games 
and dances, and in crowds j also they can arrange a future 
meeting. After that, by the ulatile and katuyausi cus- 
toms, the meetings can be repeated, or one of the lovers 
may move to the other's village. 

Another method is that of solicitation by an interme- 
diary {kaykivt). This is used when the two communities 
are distant and, owing to the season, no personal approach 
is possible. A mutual friend, male or female, is begged 
to express the boy's admiration and to arrange for a ren- 
dezvous. The kaykivi is not, as a rule, lightly set in mo- 
tion, for its failure, if this becomes public, draws down 
considerable ridicule on the solicitor. But if direct ap- 
proach and the kaykivi are both for some reason impos- 
sible, the lover uses the most powerful way of wooing, 
that of magic, as the first step in his attack. It is suffi- 
cient to say in this place that almost all final success in 
love is attributed to magic, that both men and women be- 
lieve in it deeply and trust it completely, and that, be- 
cause of this psychological attitude, it is very efficacious. 
But a full account of love magic will be given in the fol- 
lowing chapter. 

Thus there is nothing roundabout in a Trobriand woo- 
ing j nor do they seek full personal relations, with sexual 
possession only as a consequence. Simply and directly a 
meeting is asked for with the avowed intention of sexual 
gratification. If the invitation is accepted, the satisfaction 
of the boy's desire eliminates the romantic frame of mind, 



the craving for the unattainable and mysterious. If he is 
rejected, there is not much room for personal tragedy, 
for he is accustomed from childhood to having his sexual 
impulses thwarted by some girls, and he knows that an- 
other intrigue cures this type of ill surely and swiftly. 


Though the social code does not favour romance, ro- 
mantic elements and imaginative personal attachments 
are not altogether absent in Trobriand courtship and 
marriage. This will become clear if we review the three 
phases of the love life of an individual discussed in chap- 
ter iii. In the easy erotic play of children, sympathies 
and antipathies arise, and personal preferences declare 
themselves. Such early sympathetic attractions some- 
times strike quite deep. From several of my friends I 
learned that their marriage had its roots in a childish af- 
fection. Tokulubakiki and his wife knew and liked one 
another as children. Toyodala, whom I saw in despair 
after his wife's death, had been a friend of hers in child- 
hood (see ch. vi, sec. 4). Similar conclusions can be 
drawn from observation of children and stories of their 
behaviour. In a small way they try to win, to impress, 
and to catch the imagination of their playmates. Thus 
even at this stage some elements of romance are mixed 
with the direct sexuality of their playing. 

At the second stage, when boys and girls amuse them- 
selves freely with love-making, personal preferences are 



even more pronounced. They change frequently, but 
their imagination and feelings are unquestionably engaged 
for the time being. It is not difficult to overhear boys 
discussing the beautiful girls by whom they are attracted. 
One boy will praise his fancy while another disputes her 
supremacy j and, in this argument, the amorous yearnings 
of each will find expression. 

As to concrete instances, it was rather difficult for me 
to collect any circumstantial data about either children or 
adolescent boys or girls. But at the later stage, where 
attraction ripens into desire for marriage and matters are 
treated much more seriously, I had several opportunities 
for observation. The case of Mekala'i, a boy temporarily 
in my service, has already been mentioned (see ch. iv, 
sec. 2). He was seriously in love with Bodulela, of 
whom it was notorious that she slept with her stepfather. 
The boy was very deeply attached to her, and though 
there was no chance for him to possess her in the imme- 
diate future, and he was not even allowed to visit her, 
for months he nourished hopes and plans for ultimately 
winning her. He was also obviously concerned to appear 
before her as a man of importance and influence. Another 
boy, Monakewo, had a liaison with Dabugera, who be- 
longed to the highest rank. He often bewailed his low 
rank, which he knew would prevent his marriage with her 
(see ch. iv, sec. i). This disability he tried to write off 
by personal achievement. He boasted of his fine voice, 
his skill in dancing, his many abilities — some of which 
really existed — and how Dabugera valued these. When 
for a few days she was unfaithful to him, he would be 



evidently mortified j and on each of these occasions he 
wanted to persuade me to sail away from the island and 
take him with me, at the same time dwelling in imagina- 
tion on how greatly she would be impressed by this deci- 
sive step, and on the fine presents he would bring back 
to her. 

There are also cases on record where a man wants to 
marry a girl, does not at first succeed, but after a long 
period of yearning, wins his first choice. Sayabiya, a 
rather good-looking girl, had a lover from her own vil- 
lage, Yalaka, whom she was going to marry. Tomeda, a 
handsome man from Kasana'i, famous for his strength, 
his efficiency in gardening and his skill in dancing, made 
an impression on her and finally persuaded her to marry 
him. On my first visit to the Trobriands, I used to see a 
great deal of both of them, and found her one of the 
really attractive women, and him a very good informant. 
When I returned, two years later, he was living alone, 
for she had gone back to her former lover and married 
him (see ch. v, sec. i). Magic, of course, was blamed, 
but unquestionably it was a return to the first love. My 
friend Tomeda was extremely depressed for a long time, 
and used often to speak to me about his lost lady with 
obvious longing. I left the district and did not see him 
for some six months, but a few days before sailing from 
the Trobriands I met him, painted and adorned on his 
way to another village — obviously in the role of a hopeful 
suitor, a to^ulaule. When I chaffed him, he confessed 
smiling that he had a new girl whom he was hoping to 
marry soon. 



Another tangled amour was that of Yobukwa'u, a son 
of the chief To'uluwa (see ch. iv, sec. i, and ch. v, sec. 
5). His sweetheart, Ilaka'isi, was married, for reasons of 
state, to his father, as the youngest of some twenty-four 
wives. After this the young man took another girl, Ise- 
puna, whom he meant to marry. But he was unable to 
withstand the proximity of his former sweetheart, and it 
became notorious throughout Omarakana, the chief's resi- 
dence, that he slept regularly with his father's youngest 
wife. This deeply offended his betrothed. At the same 
time Yobukwa'u's younger brother, Kalogusa, returned 
from a year's service on an overseas plantation. He was 
struck by his elder brother's betrothed, Isepuna, and an 
attachment sprang up between them. The situation was 
very difficult, for it is an extremely bad thing to take 
away a brother's betrothed from him. But love was 
stronger than moral considerations. Isepuna broke with 
Yobukwa'u and became engaged to Kalogusa. They were 
married a few months after my arrival in Omarakana. It 
may be added that in the meantime, Yobukwa'u married 
a very unattractive girl, Losa, but gossip has it that he 
and Ilaka'isi are still lovers. 

Almost identical was the story of Gilayviyaka, an elder 
brother of Yobukwa'u (see ch. v, sec. 5). He also had 
slept with Nabwoyuma before her marriage to his father. 
Subsequently he married Bulubwaloga, a really attrac- 
tive lightly pigmented brown-haired woman from Yalu- 
mugwa, to whom he was deeply attached. This, how- 
ever, did not prevent his nightly visits to Nabwoyuma. 
His wife did not relish these, and spied on him 3 and he 



was caught one night in flagrante delicto^ with the result 
that a very big public scandal quite overwhelmed him. 
He had to leave the village for some time, and his wife 
returned to her people. During my stay in the village^ 
a couple of years after the event, he made several attempts 
to get his wife back, and was obviously feeling his loss 
keenly. On my last return to the Trobriands, I learned 
that he had signed on as a plantation hand, come home 
after a year, and died a few months before my arrival. 
The hopeless attachment of Ulo Kadala has already been 
mentioned (ch. iv, sec. i). One case at least of suicide 
because of an unhappy love affair has been given to me 
by the natives.^ 

In these examples we find elements of what we our- 
selves mean by love: imagination and an attempt to woo 
the heart through the imagination rather than by a direct 
appeal to the senses 3 steadfast preference, and repeated 
attempts at possession. In many of them, there is a pro- 
nounced appreciation of the personality loved and of its 
power to enrich life or leave it empty. These elements 
certainly appear in unfamiliar combinations and in a per- 
spective strange to us. The attitude to sex is different, 
and therefore certain characteristic elements of the West- 
ern sentiment are absent. A platonic attachment would 
be impossible. Above all most of the personal initia- 
tive in wooing is replaced to a considerable extent by the 
practice of magic. Such generalizations can only be ap- 
proximate, but the facts given in this chapter and inci- 
dentally throughout the book, will enable the careful 

1 Cf. Crime and Custom, p. 95. 



reader to gauge the differences between love and love- 
making in the Trobriands and in our culture. 


There is an interesting side to Trobriand love that 
might either escape the attention of the superficial ob- 
server, or give rise to many misunderstandings. In the 
course of every love affair the man has constantly to give 
small presents to the woman. To the natives the need of 
one-sided payment is self-evident. This custom implies 
that sexual intercourse, even where there is mutual attach- 
ment, is a service rendered by the female to the male. 
As such it has to be repaid in accordance with the rule of 
reciprocity or give-and-take, which pervades tribal life, 
so that every gift, every service and every favour must 
be paid by something of equivalent value. The reward 
for sexual favours is called huwa^ and the word is used 
with the suffix of nearest possession {huwagUy huwaniy 
buwalay etc.). This is perhaps merely a grammatical 
archaism. If not, it expresses an extremely close relation 
between the gift and both the giver and the receiver: in 
other words, that the gift is an essential part of the trans- 
action, as indeed it is. 

This rule is by no means logical or self-evident. Con- 
sidering the great freedom of women ,and their equality 
with men in all matters, especially that of sex, considering 
also that the natives fully realize that women are as in- 
clined to intercourse as men, one would expect the sexual 



relation to be regarded as an exchange of services in itself 
reciprocal. But custom, arbitrary and inconsequent here 
as elsewhere, decrees that it is a service from women to 
men, and men have to pay. 

As to the size and nature of the gift, this varies with 
the type of sexual relationship. As we have seen, even 
small boys, imitating their elders in every detail, will 
give their sweethearts some small gift: a pinch of tobacco, 
a shell, or simply a blossom. Boys of riper years have 
to give a more substantial present: half a stick of tobacco, 
a betel-nut or two, and, from time to time, a turtle-shell 
ring, a shell disc, or even an armlet. Otherwise a girl 
would object: Gala huwaniy afaykiy "You have no pay- 
ment to give me — I refuse." And his reputation for 
meanness would spread, and interfere with his future 
conquests. In the later and more permanent intrigues, 
especially when they grow towards marriage, it is usual 
to give substantial presents from time to time rather than 
a small gift every morning. 

When marriage is concluded, payment for sexual inter- 
course becomes the complicated family affair described in 
chapter v, in which husband and wife, their household 
and the wife's family, father and children, children and 
maternal uncle are all involved. The personal account 
between husband and wife consists in her offering him 
permanent sexual accommodation, which he repays by all 
he gives to the children in love, care, and goods. The 
children, as we know, are regarded as legally hers, and 
not his. The early cares he bestows on the children, their 
education, and even his love for them are accounted for 



by this obligation. "The payment for sleeping with the 
mother," "the payment for sexual services of the mother" 
and similar phrases are repeated when the subject is dis- 
cussed. Thus the commercial aspect of love also, and 
very definitely, obtains in marriage.^ 

It must, however, be clearly understood that the word 
"commercial" is merely used to describe the give-and-take 
principle in erotic relations, and that this principle is here, 
as in all other social relations, but one, and that not the 
most significant, aspect of them. Above all, it would be 
entirely erroneous to draw any parallel with forms of 
prostitution in higher cultures. The essence of prostitu- 
tion is that payment is the woman's motive for surrender. 
In the Trobriands, love-making is as spontaneous on the 
part of the girl as on the part of the boy. The gift is a 
custom, not a motive. The institution is much more akin 
to our custom of giving presents to a fiancee or to some- 
one whom we merely admire than to the institution of 
purely commercialized sexual services, which are the es- 
sence of prostitution. 



One more question intimately concerned with the prob- 
lem of personal attraction remains to be discussed. Love 
strives not only for possession but for monopoly 5 hence 
the strong emotional reaction of jealousy. It has been 

1 Cf. Argonauts, pp. 177, 178, where I have incorrectly classed the 
father's gifts to his children as "free gifts." The rectification of this 
error will be found in Crime and Custom, pp. 40, 41. 



affirmed by several ethnographers of tribes with great 
sexual freedom, that jealousy does not exist among them. 
In support of this, nothing more is adduced than the 
simple fact of licence. But the connection between licence 
and the absence of jealousy is by no means self-evident. 

In the Trobriands, in spite of considerable licence, jeal- 
ousy certainly exists. A man who desires a girl will not 
easily give way to a rival, as the frequent quarrels and 
fights occasioned by sexual rivalry bear witness. Nor will 
a man who has established some rights over a woman, 
whether of marriage or of engagement, or merely of a 
liaison, tolerate any infringement of these. There exists 
among them, in fact, both the jealousy of passion and 
that colder type based on ambition, power, and possession. 
As we know, relations within the hukumatula (bachelors' 
and unmarried girls' house) are subject to a definite code, 
and the infringement of individual rights is deeply re- 
sented and considered reprehensible. As we also know, 
adultery is a grave offence, punishable even by death. 
Among young boys and girls serious enmities and fights 
have been known to arise from one encroaching on the 
preserves of another, and even among children, fights are 
occasioned by jealousy. 

This passion, however, is, as are all others, susceptible 
to social influence. When custom demands that a man 
should surrender his sweetheart, and this can be honour- 
ably done, he will submit. This happens, as we know, in 
the case of visiting kula strangers, and of youths who are 
guests in a village where a death has recently occurred. 
Also, there are occasions, less readily condoned, where 



girls go on a katuyausi or steal out of the village to meet 
an ulatile party. 

I was impressed by what might be called the reverse 
side of j ealousy. The way in which boys would complain 
to me about such custom-sanctioned defection j the way 
in which they dwelt on the subject and described it with 
apparent depression, but not without some morbid curi- 
osity 3 and the insistence with which they would return 
to itj gave me the impression that there was for them 
some element of pleasurable excitement in the situation. 
Whether jealousy among the Trobrianders is an emotion 
with two almost directly contradictory feeling-tones which 
alternate, the one strongly unpleasant, and the other 
somewhat pleasurable and sexually stimulating, it is diffi- 
cult to say. But one or two facts as to the relation be- 
tween native women and white men throw additional 
light on the subject. 

Thus it is a notorious fact that Sinakadi, an important 
but impecunious chief of Sinaketa, prostitutes his wives to 
white men. He is old now, and is said to have married 
a young girl specially for this purpose j but he began the 
practice long ago, according to common report, even be- 
fore a government station was established on the Tro- 
briands. One of his sons, now a young man, is doing 
exactly the same thing. A white trader told me that he 
knew a native who seemed very much attached to and 
extremely jealous of his comely young wife. This native 
used to procure girls for the trader. On one occasion 
when he was unable to find anyone else, he brought his 
wife, and waited for her on the doorstep. Such facts 


throw an interesting side-light on the working o£ jealousy 
in these natives. 

The social, cultural, and directly emotional motives in 
jealousy will be more easily isolated by distinguishing its 
several types with their corresponding sanctions. In the 
first place there is jealousy which springs from infringe- 
ment of rights rather than from thwarted instincts or 
wounded feeling. The taboo on the chief's wives is an 
example, and in former times was extremely strict. Even 
in the case of a very old man, who was neither attached 
to his young wives nor even living with them, adultery 
would constitute a capital offence. The misconduct of 
To'uluwa's wives with his sons, a case in point already 
quoted, and the adultery of the wife of M'tabalu, would 
never have been condoned in the old days. But even the 
wife of a commoner, if caught in fiagrantey might have 
been killed with her lover. This kind of jealousy, arising 
from purely social considerations, is also expressed in the 
close watch kept over the widow by the dead man's rela- 

In the second place there is the jealous resentment of 
infidelities which interfere with a permanent relation. 
This emotional reaction is present, together with the 
social one, in the concrete instances quoted in the fore- 
going paragraph. 

Finally there is the pure sexual jealousy from tfiwarted 
impulse or desire which will impel a man or a boy to 
violent and vindictive actions. 




We know by now how a Trobriand girl and boy are 
first attracted to each other, how they come together, how 
their intrigue develops, leading to separation or marriage j 
but we know little as yet o£ the way in which two lovers 
spend their time together and enjoy each other's presence. 

In this as in all other aspects of Melanesian tribal life, 
custom and convention dictate to a large extent even the 
details of behaviour. Individual deviations always exist, 
but they fall within a relatively narrow range j much nar- 
rower unquestionably than at our own culture level. A 
lover does not expect from his or her partner the improvi- 
sation of a love rhapsody, but rather a properly executed 
repetition of traditional routine. The places in which it 
is desirable to make love, the manner of making it, the 
very types of caress, are defined by tradition. Independ- 
ent informants would describe exactly the same procedure 
almost in the same words. 

The word kwakwadu is a technical term which signifies 
something like "amorous transactions" or "being together 
for purposes of love." It would be easier perhaps to 
express it in German, as erotisches Belsamtnenselnj or by 
the American colloquialism "petting party" or "petting 
session." English speech habits are, unfortunately, re- 
fractory to stereotyped terminology, except in matters of 
morality. The kwakwadu has a wide meaning. It sig- 


nifies a collective excursion, or party of several couples 
setting out on a love picnic 3 the being together of two peo- 
ple who are in love with each other — a sort of erotic tete- 
a-tete; the caresses and approaches before the final union. 
It is never used euphemistically to designate the sexual 
act. At a collective picnic some of the games described 
in the previous chapter are first played in common, and 
afterwards the lovers seek solitude two by two. We shall 
attempt to reconstruct the behaviour of a pair who have 
left such a party, or else started off alone in order to enjoy 
each other's company in some favourite spot. 

The scrub surrounding the village, which is periodically 
cut for gardens, grows in a dense underbrush and does not 
everywhere offer a desirable resting place. Here and 
there, however, a large tree, such as the butiay is left be- 
hind for the sake of its perfumed flowers, or there may 
be a group of pandanus trees. Pleasant shady places, too, 
can be found under an old tree in one of the groves which 
often mark the site of a deserted village, whose fruit 
trees, coco-nut palms, and big banyans make an oasis 
within the stunted tropical undergrowth of recent culti- 
vation. On the coral ridge {rayhwag) many spots invite 
a picnic party. Cavities and hollows in the coral, rocks of 
queer or attractive shape, giant trees, thickets of fern, 
flowering hibiscus make the rayhwag a mysterious and 
attractive region. Especially delightful is the part which 
overlooks the open sea towards the east, towards the 
islands of Kitava, Iwa, and Gawa. The roar of the 
breakers on the fringing reef, the dazzling sand and foam 
and the blue sea, provide the favourite surroundings for 



native love-making, and also constitute the scene in which 
the mythical drama of incestuous love has been laid by 
native imagination (see ch. xiv). 

In such places the lovers enjoy the scent and colour o£ 
the flowers, they watch the birds and insects, and go down 
to the beach to bathe. In the heat of the day, or during 
the hot seasons, they search for shady spots on the coral 
ridge, for water-holes and for bathing places. As the 
cool of the evening approaches they warm themselves on 
the hot sand, or kindle a fire, or find shelter in some nook 
among the coral rocks. They amuse themselves by col- 
lecting shells and picking flowers or scented herbs, to 
adorn themselves. Also they smoke tobacco, chew betel- 
nut, and, when they are thirsty, look for a coco-nut palm, 
the green nut of which yields a cooling drink. They in- 
spect each other's hair for lice and eat them — a practice 
disgusting to us and ill associated with love-making, but 
to the natives a natural and pleasant occupation between 
two who are fond of each other, and a favourite pastime 
with children (pi. 70). On the other hand, they would 
never eat heavy food on such occasions and especially 
would never carry it with them from the village. To 
them the idea of European boys and girls going out for a 
picnic with a knapsack full of eatables is as disgusting and 
indecent as their kwakwadu would be to a Puritan in our 
society (see also ch. iii, sec. 4). 

All such pleasures — the enjoyment of landscape, of 
colour and scent in the open air, of wide views and of 
intimate corners of nature — are essential features in their 
love-making. For hours, sometimes for days, lovers will 



go out together gathering fruits and berries for food and 
enjoying each other's company in beautiful surroundings. 
I made a point of confirming these particulars from a 
number of concrete instances 3 for, in connection with the 
question of romantic love already discussed, I was inter- 
ested to know whether love-making had direct satisfaction 
only for its object, or whether it embraced a wider sen- 
sory and aesthetic enjoyment. Many of the pleasures 
which enter into general games, amusements, and festivi- 
ties, also form part of personal kwakwadu. 

Of course, love is not made only in the open air; there 
are also special occasions for bringing lovers together in 
the village. In chapter iii, the special institution of the 
bukwmatula and the more provisional arrangements of 
younger people have been mentioned. In the village, 
however, privacy is almost impossible except at night, and 
the activities of lovers are much more curtailed. They 
lie next to each other on a bunk and talk, and when they 
are tired of this, proceed to make love. 



It is not easy to reconstruct personal conversations 
which in their nature take place under very intimate con- 
ditions and without witnesses. A question couched in 
such general terms as "What do a boy and a girl talk to 
each other about at a kwakwadu?^^ is likely to be answered 
by a grin, or, if the man is familiar with the ethnographer, 
by the standard reply to all difficult questions: Tonagowa 



yokuy^^you fool" 5 in other words, "Don't ask silly ques- 

From the spontaneous confidences of some of my 
friends, however, I obtained some glimpses into what 
passes during these tete-a-tetes, A boy would often re- 
peat, for the sake of impressing me or just to give me 
some definite news, what a girl told him and what he re- 
plied, or vice versa. There is no doubt that the Trobriand 
lover boasts freely to his sweetheart and expects a sym- 
pathetic listener and an enthusiastic response. I have al- 
ready mentioned how Monakewo used to tell me of the 
great impression he had made on Dabugera and how 
greatly she admired his exploits and virtues. Mekala'i 
was equally certain that Bodulela was deeply impressed 
by any achievements which he related to her. Gomaya, 
a young chief of Sinaketa and an incurable braggart, 
would tell me how his betrothed, to whom he was 
plighted in infancy, would wonder at his stories of per- 
sonal excellence, of magical knowledge and of overseas 
adventure. In fact, whenever a Trobriander went into 
details about his love affairs, the impression made on his 
mistress would never be absent from his account, and 
would be related to me, in native fashion, as fragments 
of an actual conversation. 

Gossip about other people's business, and especially 
about their love affairs, is also a common subject of con- 
versation between two lovers 5 and on many occasions 
much of it ultimately came my way, in that a boy would 
repeat what he had heard from his sweetheart. For the 
rest, they talk of what they are doing at that moment, the 



beauties of nature, and of the things they like or do not 
like. Sometimes, too, a boy will vaunt his exploits in those 
pursuits in which women do not usually participate, such 
as kula expeditions, fishing, bird-snaring, or hunting. 

Thus a love affair may be set in a rich context of 
general interest, as regards both mutual activity and con- 
versation j but this varies with the intelligence and the 
personality of the partners. Ambitious, imaginative people 
would not be content with mere sensuous pleasure j but 
the obtuse and limited would proceed no doubt, directly 
to the cruder stages — ^the usual caresses and the sexual act. 



The place occupied by the kiss in South Sea communi- 
ties is of general and perennial interest. It is a widely 
prevalent opinion that kissing is not practised outside the 
Indo-European horizon. Students of anthropology, as 
well as frequenters of comic opera, know that even in 
such high civilizations as those of China and Japan the 
kiss as a gesture in the art of love is unknown. A Euro- 
pean shudders at the idea of such cultural deficiency. 
For his comfort, it may be said at once that things are not 
so black as they look. 

To get at the facts and to see these in their right per- 
spective, the question must first be put more precisely. 
If we ask whether lip-activities play any part in love- 
making, the answer is that they certainly do. As we shall 
see, both in the preliminary caresses and in the later 



stages, the mouth is busy. On the other hand, if we 
define kissing more precisely as a prolonged pressing of 
mouth against mouth with slight intermittent movements 
^and I think that all competent authorities would agree 
with such a definition and with the proposition that this 
is the main erotic preliminary in Europe and the United 
States — then the kiss is not used in Trobriand love-mak- 
ing. Certainly it never forms a self-contained independ- 
ent source of pleasure, nor is it a definite preliminary stage 
of love-making, as is the case with us. This caress was 
never spontaneously mentioned by the natives, and, to 
direct inquiries, I always received a negative answer. The 
natives know, however, that white people "will sit, will 
press mouth against mouth — they are pleased with it." 
But they regard it as a rather insipid and silly form of 

Kissing in the narrow sense is also absent as a cultural 
symbol, whether as a greeting, an expression of affection, 
or a magical or ritual act. The rubbing of noses (vayauli) 
as an act of greeting is rare, and never done except be- 
tween very near relatives j it is said that parents and chil- 
dren or husband and wife would thus celebrate their re- 
union after long separation. A mother who is constantly 
petting her small child, will frequently touch it with her 
cheek or her lips j she will breathe upon it, or, putting her 
open mouth against its skin, caress it gently. But the 
exact technique of kissing is not used between mother and 
child, and in no form is it so conspicuous with them as 
with us. 

The absence of kissing in the narrower sense brings us 



to a deeper difference in love-making. The natives, I 
am convinced, never indulge in erotic caresses as a self- 
sufficient activity j that is, as a stage in love-making which 
covers a long period of time before full bodily union is 
accomplished. This is a local and not a racial character, 
for I am equally convinced (see above) that among other 
Melanesians, in Dobu and probably among the Motu, in 
the Sinaugolo and Mailu tribes, engaged couples do meet, 
lie together, and caress each other without cohabitation. 

The comparison, however, cannot be satisfactory, for 
my knowledge of the latter tribes is much less complete 
than in the case of the Trobriands, and so I can only sug- 
gest a subject for further research. It is extremely im- 
portant to know whether the nature of preliminary love 
is correlated with the level of culture, or with the social 
regulation of it — above all, with the moral restrictions 
condemning prenuptial intercourse. 

We have spoken rather fully about kissing, to satisfy 
a general curiosity on this point. Let us now observe the 
behaviour of two lovers alone on their bunk in the huku- 
matulay or in a secluded spot in the rayhwag or jungle. 
A mat is usually spread on the boards or on the earth, 
and, when they are sure of not being observed, skirt and 
pubic leaf are removed. They may at first sit or lie side 
by side, caressing each other, their hands roaming over the 
surface of the skin. Sometimes they will lie close to- 
gether, their arms and legs enlaced. In such a position 
they may talk for a long time, confessing their love with 
endearing phrases, or teasing each other (katudabumd) . 
So near to each other, they will rub noses. But though 


there is a good deal of nose-rubbing, cheek is also rubbed 
against cheek, and mouth against mouth. Gradually the 
caress becomes more passionate, and then the mouth is 
predominantly active 5 the tongue is sucked, and tongue is 
rubbed against tongue j they suck each other's lower lips, 
and the lips will be bitten till blood comes j the saliva is 
allowed to flow from mouth to mouth. The teeth are 
used freely, to bite the cheek, to snap at the nose and 
chin. Or the lovers plunge their hands into the thick 
mop of each other's hair and tease it or even tear it. In 
the formulas of love magic, which here as elsewhere 
abound in over-graphic exaggeration, the expressions, 
"drink my blood" and "pull out my hair" are frequently 
used (see next chapter). This sentence, volunteered by 
a girl's sweetheart, describes his erotic passion: 

Binunu vivila dubilibaloday bigadi; 

She sucks woman lower lip (ours), she bites 3 
tagiyu bimwam. 
we spit, she drinks. 

Erotic scratches are an even more direct way of hurt- 
ing and of drawing blood. We have already spoken of 
these as the conventional invitation of a girl to a boy. We 
also described their place in tribal festivities (ch. ix, sec. 
5). But they are also a part of intimate love-making, 
and a mutual expression of passion: 

Tayobobuy tavayauUy takenu deli; 

We embrace, we rub noses, we lie together 5 



bikimali vivila otuhwaloday ovilavada 

she scratches woman on back (ours), on shoulders (ours) 5 

sene bwoynciy tanukwaliy bitagwalayda 

very much good, we know, she loves us 


very much indeed. 

On the whole, I think that in the rough usage of pas- 
sion the woman is the more active. I have seen far larger 
scratches and marks on men than on women j and only 
women may actually lacerate their lovers as in the case 
mentioned in chapter ix, section 5. The scratching is car- 
ried even into the passionate phases of intercourse. It is 
a great jest in the Trobriands to look at the back of a 
man or a girl for the hall-marks of success in amorous 
life. Nor have I ever seen a comely girl or boy without 
some traces of kimali in the proper places. Subject to 
general rules of good taste and specific taboo (see ch. xiii), 
the kimali marks are a favourite subject for jokes 5 but 
there is also much secret pride in their possession. 

Another element in love-making, for which the average 
European would show even less understanding than for 
the kimaliy is the mitakukuy the biting off of eyelashes. 
As far as I could judge from descriptions and demonstra- 
tions, a lover will tenderly or passionately bend over his 
mistress's eyes and bite oflF the tip of her eyelashes. This, 
I was told, is done in orgasm as well as in the less pas- 
sionate preliminary stages. I was never quite able to 
grasp either the mechanism or the sensuous value of this 
caress. I have no doubt, however, as to its reality, for I 



have not seen one boy or girl in the Trobriands with the 
long eyelashes to which they are entitled by nature. In 
any case, it shows that the eye to them is an object of 
active bodily interest. Still less enthusiasm will probably 
be felt by the romantic European towards the already 
mentioned custom of catching each other's lice and eating 
them. To the natives, however, it is a pastime, which, 
while pleasant in itself, also establishes an exquisite sense 
of intimacy. 



The following is a condensed description of the whole 
process of love-making, with several characteristic inci- 
dents, given me by my friend Monakewo: 

Takwakwadu: dakova^ kadiyaguma^ 
We make love: our fire, our lime gourd, 
kaditafwaki: kada galay mwasila. Bkala, 

our tobacco 3 food (ours) no, shame. We go, 
tala kaytala ka^t kayviava; tasisu, 

we go (for) one (wood) tree tree bigj we sit, 
takakakutu; taluki vivila: 

we louse and eatj we tell to woman: 

^Hakayta?^ BvuookwOy 

"we copulate" (let us copulate). It is finished, 

bit old ovalu; ovalu tola obukumatulay 

we go to village 3 in village we go to bachelors' 




takenu tabigatona, Kidama kadumwaletay 

we lie, we chatter. Supposing we are alone, 

taltku yaviday biliku dabela 

we undo pubic leaf ours she undoes skirt (hers) 


we sleep. 

This may be freely rendered: "When we go on a love- 
making expedition we light our firej we take our lime 
gourd (and chew betel-nut), we take our tobacco (and 
smoke it). Food we do not take, we would be ashamed 
to do so. We walk, we arrive at a large tree, we sit down, 
we search each other's heads and consume the lice, we tell 
the woman that we want to copulate. After it is over we 
return to the village. In the village we go to the bach- 
elors' house, lie down, and chatter. When we are alone 
he takes off the pubic leaf, she takes off her fibre skirt: 
we go to sleep." 

With regard to the act itself, perhaps the most note- 
worthy feature is the position. 

The woman lies on her back, the legs spread and 
raised, and the knees flexed. The man kneels against her 
buttocks, her legs resting on his hips. The more usual 
position, however, is for the man to squat in front of the 
woman and, with his hands resting on the ground, to move 
towards her or, taking hold of her legs, to pull her to- 
wards him. When the sexual organs are close to each 
other the insertion takes place. Again the woman may 
stretch her legs and place them directly on the man's hips, 
with his arms outside them, but the far more usual posi- 



tion is with her legs embracing the man's arms, and rest- 
ing on the elbows. 

An interesting text gives the description of both 

Kidama vivila skana ikanufwagega; 

Supposing woman a little bit she lies open (-legged) ; 
kaykela bima ogifomada. 

legs hers it comes on our hips. 

Kidama ikanufwagega senelay 

Supposing she lies open (-legged) very much indeed, 
ikanuheyayay kaykela bima o 

she lies right open, leg hers it comes on 

fmtutugu kaylavast. 
end mine elbow. 

Which may be rendered: 

"When the woman opens her legs only a little, her legs 
come (i.e. rest) on my hipsj when she lies with legs 
spread out very much, lies right open, her legs rest on 
my elbows." 

Congress is sometimes effected in a reclining position. 
Lying side by side, with the lower limbs pressed against 
each other, the woman places her upper leg on top of the 
man, and the insertion is made. This mode, which is less 
popular, is used at night in the bukumatula (bachelors' 
house). It is less noisy, as the natives say, and requires 
less space J and is done in order not to wake up the other 
inmates of the house (see ch. iii, sec. 4). 

No other positions are used. Above all, the natives 



despise the European position and consider it unpractical 
and improper. The natives, of course, know it, because 
white men frequently cohabit with native women, some, 
even being married to them. But, as they say: "The man 
overlies heavily the woman 5 he presses her heavily down- 
wards, she cannot respond {ibilamafu) ^'^ 

Altogether the natives are certain that white men do 
not know how to carry out intercourse eflFectively. As a 
matter of fact, it is one of the special accomplishments of 
native cook-boys and servants who have been for some 
time in the emplo3^ of white traders, planters, or officials, 
to imitate the copulatory methods of their masters. In 
the Trobriands, Gomaya was perhaps the best actor in 
this respect. He still remembered a famous Greek buc- 
caneer (Nicholas Minister was the name he went by 
among other beachcombers), who had lived in the islands 
even before the establishment of the government station. 
Gomaya's performance consisted in the imitation of a very 
clumsy reclining position, and in the execution of a few 
sketchy and flabby movements. In this the brevity and 
lack of vigour of the European performance were carica- 
tured. Indeed, to the native idea, the white man achieves 
orgasm far too quickly; and there seems to be no doubt 
that the Melanesian takes a much longer time and em- 
ploys a much greater amount of mechanical energy to 
reach the same result. This, together with the handicap 
of the unfamiliar position, probably accounts for the com- 
plaints of white men that native girls are not responsive. 
Many a white informant has spoken to me about perhaps 
the only word in the native language which he ever 


learned, kubilahda ("move on horizontally")? repeated 
to him with some intensity during the sexual act. This 
verb defines the horizontal motion during sexual inter- 
course, which should be mutual. The noun hllahalay 
originally means a horizontally lying logj and hala as a 
root or prefix, conveys a general sense of the horizontal. 
But the Ya:hybilabalay does not convey the immobility of 
a log 5 on the contrary, it gives the idea of horizontal 
motion. The natives regard the squatting position as 
more advantageous, both because the man is freer to move 
than when kneeling, and because the woman is less ham- 
pered in her responsive movements — bilafnafu — a com- 
pound of bilay from balay horizontal, and mafUy repay or 
respond. Also in the squatting position the man can per- 
form the treading motion {mtumuta)^ which is a useful 
dynamic element in successful copulation. Another word, 
korikikilay implies at the same time rubbing and pushing, 
a copulatory motion. 

As the act proceeds and the movements become more 
energetic, the man, I was told, waits until the woman is 
ready for orgasm. Then he presses his face to the 
woman's, embraces her body and raises it towards him, 
she putting her arms round him at the same time and, as 
a rule, digging her nails into his skin. The expression 
for orgasm is ififisi momona == the seminal fluid dis- 
charges. The word momona signifies both the male and 
the female discharge j as we know, the natives do not 
make any sharp distinction between male semen and the 
glandular secretions of a woman, at least, not as regards 
their respective functions. The same expression ipsi 



momona is also applied to (male or female) nocturnal 
pollution. The word for onanistic ejaculation is isulu- 
momoniy "it boils over sexual fluid." Male masturbation 
is called ikivayli kwila — "he manipulates penis" j female 
masturbation is described in concrete phrases and has no 
specific name. 

An interesting personal account was given to me by 
Monakewo and illustrates some of the points just men- 
tioned. It was hardly discreet of him to speak of his mis- 
tress by namej but the ethnographer's love for the con- 
crete instance may excuse my not emending it. 

Bamasisi deli Dabugera; hayohohuy 

I sleep together Dabugera 5 I embrace, 

bavakayla havayauU, Tanunu dubilihaloday 

I hug all length, I rub noses. We suck lower lips ours, 
fela bi^ulugwalayda; mayela tanunu; 

because we feel excited 5 tongue his we suckj 

tagadl kabulula; tagadl kola gabula; tagadl 
we bite nose his 5 we bite his chin 5 we bite 
kimwala; takabi fosigalay 

jaw (cheek) his 5 we take hold (caress) armpit his, 
visiyala, Bilivala minana: "O didakwani, 

groin his. She says this woman: "O it itches, 
lubaygUy senela; kworikikila 

lover mine, very much indeed j rub and push 

tuvaylay bilukwali wowogu — 

again, it feels pleasant body mine — 



kwofmavlyakay nanakwa hififisi 

do it vigorously, quick (so that) it squirts 

momona: — kwalimtufnutu tuvayla hilukwali 
sexual fluid; — tread again it feels pleasant 

body mine." 

Free Translation 

"When I sleep with Dabugera I embrace her, I hug 
her with my whole body, I rub noses with her. We suck 
each other's lower lip, so that we are stirred to passion. 
We suck each other's tongues, we bite each other's noses, 
we bite each other's chins, we bite cheeks and caress the 
armpit and the groin. Then she will say: ^O my lover, 
it itches very much . . . push on again, my whole body 
melts with pleasure ... do it vigorously, be quick, so 
that the fluids may discharge . . . tread on again, my 
body feels so pleasant.' " 

The same informant gave me the following samples 
of a conversation which would occur after the act, when 
the two rested in each other's arms: 

^^Kayne tomhwayUm yayguP^ 

"Whether sweetheart thine I?" 
^^Mtage! nabwayligu yoku — sene 

"Yes! sweetheart mine thou — very much 

magigu; tutay tuta, bitakayta; sene 

desire mine; time, time, we copulate ; very much 

migimbwayligu mlgm tabudaP^ 

face yours beloved by me face thine cross-cousins!" 



^^Gala maglgu bukuyousi nata vivila- 

"No desire mine you get hold one woman 

nava^u; yoku wala^ yaygu,^^ 

new woman 3 thou indeed, I." 

"Am I thy sweetheart?" "Yes, thou art my sweet- 
heart j I love thee very much 3 always, always we shall 
cohabit. I love thy face very much j it is that of a cross- 
cousin (the right woman for me)." "I do not desire 
that thou shouldst take a new woman j just thou and I." 

I was informed that sexual relations between married 
people would be on the same lines, but, from the follow- 
ing text, it is clear that passion ebbs with time. 

Vigilava^u imasisisi kzvaytanidesi 

Married newly they sleep single one 

kabasi; blmugo vayvaH bikwaybogwOy 

bed theirs j it matures matrimony it is old, 
kwayta kabalay kwayta kabada. Bisala^u 

one bed her, one bed ours. It is energetic 

uwasiy magisi bikaytasi, bikenusi 

body theirs, desire theirs they copulate, they lie 
deli bikamitakukusi bivayaulasiy 

together they bite eyelashes they rub noses. 

they bite. 

"Newly married people sleep together in one bed. 
When matrimony has matured, when it has become old, 
she sleeps in one bed, and we (i.e. the husband) sleep 



in another. When they feel sexually vigorous they want 
to cohabit 5 then they lie together, they bite their eye- 
lashes, they rub their noses, they bite each other." 

Here my informant, Tokulubakiki, a married man, 
tries to convey the idea that even long-married persons 
can behave at times as lovers. 

In conclusion,^ I should like to draw the attention of 
the reader to the data supplied by Dr. W. E. Roth and 
other informants concerning the sexual life of the ab- 
origines of Australia.^ The subject is of considerable 
importance as the mechanism is very characteristic of the 
whole nature of erotic approach. The manner in which 
the Queensland aborigines copulate closely resembles that 
described in this chapter. In both regions the act can 
be so carried out that there is the minimum of bodily 
contact. I think that this to a great extent accounts for 
the undiscriminating way in which young and handsome 
boys will sometimes fornicate with old and repulsive 
women. On the other hand, where love exists, the man 
can bend over the woman or the woman raise herself to 
meet him and contact can be as full and intimate as is 

^ Compare also what has been said about native ideas concerning the 
anatomy and physiology of procreation and the psycho-physiological 
mechanism of falling in love, chapter vii. 

2 Dr. W. E. Roth, Ethnological Studies Among the North-West Central 
Queensland Aborigines, 1897, and H. Basedow, in J.R.AJ., 1927, on 
"Subincision and Kindred Rites of the Australian Aboriginal," pp. 151-6. 




Perhaps nothing is so akin to the mysterious and stir- 
ring condition which we call falling in love, as that mystic 
expectancy of miraculous intervention and of benevolent 
and unexpected happenings which comes to all men at 
certain psychological moments and forms the founda- 
tion of the human belief in magic. There is a desire in 
every one of us to escape from routine and certainty, 
and it can be said, without exaggeration, that to most men 
nothing is more cheerless and oppressive than the rigidity 
and determination with which the world runsj and 
nothing more repugnant than the cold truths of science, 
which express and emphasize the determination of reality. 
Even the most sceptical at times rebel against the inevi- 
table causal chain, which excludes the supernatural and, 
with it, all the gifts of chance and good fortune. Love, 
gambling and magic have a great deal in common. 

In a primitive community, not yet in bond to science, 
magic lies at the root of innumerable beliefs and prac- 
tices. Megway which may be almost exactly rendered 
by our word "magic," is, to the Trobriander, a force re- 
siding in man, transmitted to him from generation to 
generation through the medium of tradition. This force 
can only become active by the performance of a ritual 
^appropriate to the occasion, by the recital of proper incan- 



tationSj and by the observance of specific taboos. In all 
matters relating to love, it is of fundamental importance. 
Magic can endow with charm and engender lovej magic 
can alienate affection in consort or lover j and magic can 
produce or enhance personal beauty. 


The magic of which the purpose is so to increase per- 
sonal attractiveness that the performer may become 
erotically irresistible to some one member of the opposite 
sex, is but one among several kinds of beauty magic. 
Personal appearance and charm are not valued on amo- 
rous grounds only. A woman in her first pregnancy, 
as we know, is subject to an elaborate ritual, with spells 
to enhance her bodily beauty, which is in no way intended 
to make her attractive to men. She is sexually taboo to 
her own husband j and the idea of adultery under such 
circumstances is, without exaggeration, morally repul- 
sive to the natives. Again, a beauty magic has been 
described elsewhere which is performed at a certain stage 
in an overseas expedition.^ This has no erotic reference — 
indeed love-making, on such occasions, is often taboo — 
but its purpose is to make the personal charm of the 
visitors so irresistible that they will be offered many gifts 
of valuable ornaments. The heroes of ancestral days, 
who make themselves beautiful for reasons which have 

1 See Argonauts of the Western Pacific, ch. xiii, sec. i, and especially 
PP- 335-6. Compare also footnote on p. 219, vol. i, of this work. 



nothing to do with sex, figure in the mythology of the 
kula (ArgonautSy ch. xii). It is important that the prac- 
tice of beauty magic to a directly sexual end should be 
placed in its proper setting in this general and intense 
interest in personal charm. 


In our description of the opportunities given by festive 
occasions for mutual admiration and contact, the im- 
portance of beauty and skill in dancing, and of "deport- 
ment" was made clear. Beauty magic is a part of the 
personal preparation for all big festivals 5 special charms 
are recited over certain parts of the body during the care 
and cleansing of them, and during ornamentation. This 
is always done on the last and culminating day of the 
period of festival dancing (usigola) or of competitive 
games {kayasa)^ during the third feast in which they 
terminate (ch. ix, sees. 3 and 4). The tension, interest 
and personal animosities characteristic of these competitive 
displays must be realized before we can understand the 
nature and importance of the beauty ceremonial j and we 
shall, therefore, give a short account of the proceedings 
as ritual observances, but without returning to the games 
and amusements round which they centre (see above, 
ch. ix, sec. 2). 

The festive period, which lasts twenty-eight days, 
always begins, as we know, at the full moon after the 
return of the ancestral spirits. It is opened by a cere- 



monial distribution of food (sagali) (pis. 71 and 72). A 
sagali is a very important institution in the Trobriands^ 
it accompanies most ceremonial occasions, such as mortu- 
ary rites, commemoration feasts, competitive enterprises 
and the annual season of amusement. The mortuary 
sagali (distributions), which are the most important, are 
based upon the division into clans and sub-clans (see ch. vi, 
sec. 4, and ch. xiii, sec. 5), since members of only one 
clan always act as distributors, men of the remaining 
clans receiving the food. At other times the apportion- 
ment of the food follows some other sociological prin- 
ciple. In all cases, however, it is the headman of the 
local community who officiates as "master of the distri- 
bution" {toUsagali). He and his kinsmen arrange the 
allotment of each heap of yams, moving among them, 
discussing and memorizing (pi. 71). After that the same 
committee slowly walk from one heap to another and 
the master or his spokesman calls out the name or descrip- 
tion of the recipient. When this has been done, the men 
move away from the place and, after a time, the women 
belonging to each recipient collect the yams in baskets and 
carry them to their storehouses (pi. 72). In a small 
sagaliy such as is held within the community at the be- 
ginning of a dancing or playing season, the duty of pro- 
viding the food invariably falls on the master and his 
kinsmen, while the renown {butura) of the distribution 
goes to their credit, and those who receive food are re- 
sponsible to them for the success of the entertainments 
which follow. 

The distribution in fact imposes an obligation on all 



participants to go on steadily with the dance, game, or 
whatever special display has been chosen, for the whole 
period. In an usigola (dancing period) each heap of 
food would be allotted according to its size, and be given 
to a special class of performer. One of the largest would 
go to the leaders of the round dance {tokoUmatala) . The 
three men who perform the complicated figure dance, the 
solemn kasawaga^ receive an equally big portion. The 
singers {tokwayfo^u\ a body of no mean importance, also 
have their special place in the distribution. Smaller heaps 
of different sizes are given to the drummers, the mutes in 
the figure dance, the boys who catch the iguana for the 
drumskin, and to all the rest of the villagers, according 
to the part they play in the proceedings. In a sagali (dis- 
tribution), therefore, the respective importance of each 
group is emphasized and this causes a certain amount of 
tension and jealousy, and some little boasting. 

On the first day, magic is performed over a conch- 
shell and over food. The conch-shell is blown on that 
day and also during the dance j the food is buried wher- 
ever a road enters the village. Both rites are meant 
magically to enhance the splendour of the performance. 
The charmed conch-shell announces the coming display 
with the thrilling ostentation of magical power. The 
burial of the food expresses the desire for plenty within 
the village, is a symbol of it, and is believed to effect it. 
I was unable to obtain the formula of this magic, so my 
information is but approximate. 

After these ceremonies, the dancing period begins. At 
first, there is much to do in the way of learning, training, 



and preliminary contests. In the middle of the month 
a second sagaU (distribution of food) is held, called 
katumwalela kasakasa (the priming of the rank and file). 
There is a special dance on such a day, but no other rites 
are performed. 

Finally, at the next full moon, there comes the kovayse 
(the winding up), which lasts for three days, and is the 
main festivity of the period. Two days before the full 
moon, there is a great communal eating of sago or taro 
pudding (see pis. 5 and 86). This day is called itavakayse 
kaydebu ("preparing of the dancing shield"), or itava- 
kayse bisila ("preparing of the pandanus streamer"), in 
reference to the shield and streamer which are both used 
in dancing. On the next day, which is called kokolukwaHy 
the same proceedings are repeated. On both days cere- 
monial dancing takes place. 

The third day is called luvayam^ "the day of consum- 
mation," or lafulay "the rounding-off day," and is a great 
occasion. People from many villages are invited, and 
begin to arrive in the morning, soon filling the village 
street and surrounding spaces. Each community sits in 
a group, camping on mats, surrounded with baskets and 
children. Those on more intimate terms with their hosts 
assist them in the preparations. The villagers, with 
serious set faces, move quickly to and fro among the 
guests, in gala dress, some already adorned for the 
dance — ^the men perhaps in female grass petticoats with 
the whole body decked out in valuable ornaments and 

In the morning, the performance begins with an in- 



augural round dance, the mwelt (as on pis. 58, G^t 82). 
The mweli is followed at about noon by the ceremonial 
figure dance {kasawaga) (pi. 73). All is done in full 
dress and with great display, to the attentive observation 
of the onlookers. But this is only a preparation for what 
will follow. 

After midday, the real ceremonial begins. The per- 
formers have now ritually to wash, dress, and ornament 
themselves. The visitors and the rest of the villagers 
are in the meantime engaged in a distribution of food and 
in feasting. Early in the afternoon, platters of baked 
yams, bananas, and coco-nut, and sometimes of fish as 
well, are brought to the guests and distributed to each 
community as mltalela valu ("eye of the village" — a 
metaphor which I was unable to elucidate). This is 
usually an occasion for much merriment and some horse- 
play, the givers and receivers exchanging appropriate 
jokes. Then each group sets to work on its portion, sit- 
ting round the platter with backs turned to the people 
from other village communities, as is required by good 

To complete our account of food distributions: there 
follows another sagali, in which the performers, now fully 
dressed and adorned, give presents to their tahmia 
(father's sisters, and their daughters). This is a repay- 
ment for the beauty magic which the women have per- 
formed upon them, to the description of which we now 




The ceremonial washing and decoration of the dancers 
is undertaken on this occasion by women of a special class, 
namely those who stand to them in the relation of tabu. 
We shall have to discuss the tahu and their place in the 
social scheme more fully in the chapters which follow 
(ch. xiii, sec. 63 see also ch. viii, sec. 2). In this place we 
need only mention that they are the approved and suitable 
partners for passing intrigues, for more stable liaisons or 
for marriage (see also ch. iv, sec. 4). It is their duty 
now to prepare the men for the dance, to deck them out 
with ornaments, with flowers and with paint, and to per- 
form the magic incidental to each stage of the proceed- 
ings. In this, the ritual differs from the beauty magic in 
the kulay where each man makes his own magic and 
adorns himself. It is, on the other hand, similar in every 
respect to the beauty magic performed in the first preg- 
nancy ceremony (see above, ch. viii, sec. 2). 

The ceremonial dressing must, as always, be preceded 
by a ritual washing and cleansing, conducted to a running 
accompaniment of appropriate spells. The dancers and 
their attendants have now assembled outside the village 
in the grove, usually at a place not far from the water- 
hole (pi. 74). While the boys wait, their tabula recite a 
spell over some coco-nut fibre, with which the skin is to 
be rubbed as with a sponge 5 and over some soft leaves 
(usually of the wageva shrub), with which the skin will 



be dried as with a towel. This is, in free translation, a 
kaykakaya (ablution) formula for the charming of the 
coco-nut fibre: ^ 

Polishing, polishing off, 

Cleansing, cleansing off. 

There is one piece of fibre. 

My own, a keen fibre, a buoyant fibre, 

One which is as the morning star, 

Which is as the full moon. 

I cleanse his chest, I improve his head, 

I improve his chest, I cleanse his head. 

They climb up a pole (to admire). 

They bind a flattery-bond round his knees. 

This formula needs hardly any comment. It contains, 
as with most magic, the affirmation of the desired effect. 
It begins with a simple statement of the action of cleans- 
ing, and then extols the value of the coco-nut, comparing 
it to the morning star and to the full moon. The quality 
thus charmed into the coco-nut fibre will, it must be re- 
membered, be later on transferred by friction to the skin 
of the bather. The idea of a light colour as an attribute 
of beauty is clearly expressed. The formula closes with 
an exaggerated statement of the effect to be produced by 
the magic. It is a custom to remove a piece of decoration 
from the body of a dancer or, in the case of people of 
high rank, to tie a string round his leg or arm, in order 
to express admiration. This is done with the words 
Agu tilewaHy "my flattery-bond," and has to be redeemed 
by the admired dancer with a suitable present, which is 
also called tilewaH — flattery-gift. 

1 For information as to the linguistic plan adopted in the translation of 
this and other native texts, see ch. xviii, "The Power of Words in Magic," 
in my Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 


The following formula is spoken over the leaves used 
for drying the skin : — 

I pull and pull, I pull hither and thither, 

I pull my leaves of drying. 

There is one kind of towel leaves, / 

The leaves of my companions; 

Sere, parched leaves they are, 

There is another kind of leaves, my tovp^el leaves. 

The leaves of me, of Ibo'umli, 

They are keen buoyant flashing leaves. 

Here again we find the usual affirmation, but the three 
middle lines are very interesting, for they show what 
might be called a typical case of magical relativity. The 
magic of the speaker, who in such cases always mentions 
his or her own name, is extolled at the expense of the 
magic of his or her companions. This type of phrasing 
is prevalent in magic applied in competitive activities.^ 
The pulling of the leaves mentioned in the first line refers 
to the act of breaking them from the tree, and is a typical 
magical expression. 

After the coco-nut fibre and the leaves have been 
charmed, each man takes his sponge and towel from his 
tabula and wraps it up in leaves, so that no magic virtue 
shall evaporate, even during the short passage from the 
spot where they are assembled to the water-hole, whither 
the men presently repair, leaving the women behind. 
Arrived there, the men remove all dress and ornament, 
and begin to wash, scraping off any paint which still re- 
mains from the morning. The coco-nut fibre is first un- 
wrapped from its covering, and with this they rub their 

1 Compare, for instance, the formula referring to the speed of the canoe, 
Argonauts of the Western Pacific, p. 130. 


skin. They rub carefully and earnestly and with a scru- 
pulous minuteness, so that no part of the skin shall remain 
untouched. The face and the chest are perhaps most 
thoroughly scrubbed. With the same meticulous atten- 
tion to detail, the skin is dried with the soft, spongy 
leaves. Then they return to their female magicians who 
are awaiting them. 


In the meantime, the women have been preparing 
various cosmetic substances. Each boy, before the wash- 
ing, has taken off his most precious ornaments, such as 
shell-belt, armshells, and valuable necklaces, and left 
them with his tabula; so now the toilet can begin. First 
comes the anointing with charmed coco-nut oil, always the 
next stage after washing (I failed to obtain the magical 
formula of coco-nut oil). When this has been well 
rubbed all over the skin, by the man himself and not by 
the women, the latter proceed to stroke the skin with 
a mother-of-pearl shell {kayeki or kaydohu) (pi. 75). 
Slowly and gently each tabula presses the smooth shell 
up and down over his cheeks, his arms and his chest, and 
laterally across his forehead 5 reciting a formula, as she 
does so, in a clear audible voice. The words must always 
be spoken towards the boy's face which she is stroking. 

Who makes the beauty magic? — 

To heighten the beauty, to make it come out. 

Who makes it on the slopes of Obukula? — 

I, Tabalu, and my mate Kwaywaya. 

We make the beauty magic. 



I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy head I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy cheeks I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy nose I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy throat I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy neck I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy shoulders I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Thy breast I smooth out, I improve, I whiten! 
Bright skin, bright; glowing skin, glowing. 

The opening sentences of the formula again present a 
typical pattern of Trobriand magic. They express the 
traditional filiation of the actual performer. By reciting 
them, the magician charms, not in his own name, but as 
a representative, so to speak, of the original source of the 
magic. He — or in this case she — is even projected to the 
spot from whence the magic came 5 in the present rites 
on the slopes of Obukula, where the primeval grotto lies, 
near the village of Laba'i.^ From this grotto, according 
to tradition, the earliest clan-ancestors emerged. There, 
also, the culture hero Tudava was raised and lived with 
his mother. It is the centre of traditional magic, of 
custom and of law. The formula identifies the speaker 
with two ancestors of the highest sub-clan, which takes 
its name from one of them, Tabalu. In the form given 
in this charm, the names can be either male or female. 
In practice, the masculine prefix Mo- or the feminine 
prefix Bo- is usually added to indicate whether a man or 
a woman is named. Thus, the old chief of Kasana'i, who 
was still alive on my first visit to the Trobriands, was 
called M 'tabalu, and one of his nephews, Kwaywaya. 
The feminine forms would be Botabalu and Bokwaywaya 

1 For details of these legendary places and persons, see Myth in Primi' 
five Psychology. 



respectively. The rest o£ the formula is typical of all 
the longer spells and follows, step by step, the ritual 
applications to the object charmed. This is the longest 
formula and the most circumstantial act of beauty magic. 
After the body has been anointed and smoothed with 
the pearl shell, the cosmetics are ceremonially applied. 
The mouth is painted with crushed betel-nut, while the 
following words are chanted: 

Red paint, red paint thither. 

Red paint, red paint hither. 

One red paint of my companions, 

It is sere, it is parched. 

One red paint, my red paint 

Of me, of Ibo'umli ; 

It is keen, it is buoyant, it is flashing: 

My red paint. 

This charm is similar in form to that of the wageva 

When the mouth has been painted red, and perhaps a 
few lines in the same colour on the face, ornamental 
spirals are painted on the cheeks and forehead with 
sayaku (pi. 76), an aromatic black cosmetic, while the 
following words are recited: 

O black paint, O buoyant black paint! 

O black paint, O decorative black paint! 

O black paint, O comely black paint! 

Glowing eyes, glowing, bright eyes, bright. 

For this is my sayaku. 

The ornamenting, the alluring black paint Indeed. 

Then the hair is teased out with a comb to the accom- 
paniment of this spell: 

Who makes the beauty magic — 
To heighten the beauty, to make it come out? 
Who makes it on the slopes of Kituma? 
, I, Ibo'umli, make the beauty magic 


To heighten the beauty, to make it come out. 

1 make it on the slopes of Kituma. 

Keen is my comb, buoyant is my comb, 

My comb is like the full moon, 

My comb is like the morning star. 

For this is my comb, 

It will adorn me, 

It will make me beloved indeed. 

The name, Ibo'umli, occurring in this and one or two 
of the previous formulas, is that of my informant. The 
place, Kituma, seems to be somewhere in the eastern archi- 
pelago, but my informant could not locate it exactly. 

The toilet is now almost complete. The dancers are 
adorned with red flowers, aromatic herbs {yana)^ and 
garlands of the butiuy which always blooms at this season 
(pi. 77). Appropriate incantations are said, but I shall 
not here cite them, for, although I obtained them, I can- 
not translate them satisfactorily. Finally, and with no 
adjuvant magic, such valuable ornaments as belts, arm- 
shells, necklaces, and last, but not least, the feather orna- 
ments for the head, are put on the dancers. This last 
part of the toilet is done by men (pi. 78). 


The elaborate ritual preparation of the dancers gives 
some indication of the tense emotional atmosphere which 
is characteristic of these big festive assemblies. The whole 
complex of dangerous passions, which, at the same time, 
spring from and generate the spirit of emulation, is 
wrought upon by such a culminating occasion for personal 



While charms are being said over the dancers in the 
grove to give them added beauty, strength, and skill, two 
other kinds of magic are being prepared in the village, one 
of which is a measure of protection. There is a deep 
belief and a strong apprehension among the natives that 
black magic is being used against the dancers by the ene- 
mies of the village* Excellence in dancing is, indeed, 
one of those dangerous accomplishments which arouse 
great envy, and against which many an evil magician 
directs his powers. In fact, among the symptoms by 
which the wizard murderer is identified on the corpse of 
his victim, an important place is occupied by marks which 
signify: "This man was killed for his excellence in 
dancing." ^ 

There is a special evil magic called kaygiauri, which is 
practised against the dancers, and indeed against all the 
bystanders except the sorcerer himself and his friends. 
I was not able to find out any details about this magic, 
how it is performed, or how it is supposed to act. But 
I have myself seen men preparing an antidote and making 
the counter-magic over the dancers. When the ritual 
toilet had been completed, small parcels were produced, 
containing magically treated wild ginger-root hermetically 
wrapped up in leaves. These were chewed by the magi- 
cian, who then spat over the skin of the dancer. Next he 
took some aromatic leaves {kwehila) j over these he mut- 
tered a short formula, and then he put them into the arm- 
lets of the dancers. 

The operation of these evil passions is not, in fact, 

^ Cf. Crime and Custom, part ii, ch. ii, p. 89. 



wholly confined to the realm of idea and belief. The 
danger of a fight during the culminating day of a kayasa 
is even now not quite excluded. I was never present when 
feeling ran high enough to develop into a brawl, but, 
even so, I was strongly aware of a violence and ruthless- 
ness in the behaviour of the performers and of the crowd, 
of a certain nervous mistrust and clinging together of each 
group, which confirmed the direct statements of the na- 
tives and my general information as to the conduct of 
such affairs in former times. Then the natives would 
come fully armed, with spears, wooden sword clubs, 
throwing sticks, and shields 3 each community would 
stand in a group with every man on his guard, suspicious 
of all strangers and on the look-out for possible trouble. 
When interest in the performance was at its height, people 
would push forward, the closer physical contact would 
cause suspicion of sorcery, and anything might be the 
signal for a fight. The presence of women in the various 
groups was another important source of danger, because 
of sexual rivalry. 

To the envy and jealousy and mutual mistrust must 
be added an ardent desire for renown {hutura). This 
finds full and independent expression in a further type of 
magic, which, with that of beauty and the specific against 
hostile sorcery, is launched into the exalted atmosphere 
of the village. This is the magic of uributUy "spreading 
of renown" {uriy from ^^woriy^ to strike, to flick, to spray j 
butUy root of "renown"). While the dancers are being 
made ready under the trees of the village grove 3 while 
a distribution of food is in progress on the central place, 



the magician of glory, the to^uributUy proceeds in his own 
house to manufacture fame for his community. He is the 
same man who, on the first day of the festivities, a month 
ago, has performed the important magic of the conch- 
shells and the buried food. In the morning he has also 
prepared the scene of the dances by ritual sweeping of the 
haku (central place) with a charmed broom. Now comes 
his most important performance. On a large mat, folded 
over so that it encloses them, he places a drum, a conch- 
shell, and a few pieces of reed {dadam). Into the open 
mouth of this improvised magic bag he then chants his 
spells. The formula unfortunately I was not able to 

His task is completed as the dancers are ready, fully 
dressed and waiting to start (pi. 79) the lafula or final 
dance. He gives one of the drummers the magic drum^ 
and another man takes the charmed conch-shell. 

The dancers, the singers, and the drummers now put 
themselves into position, ready for the signal. This is 
given by the magician of glory and one or two assistants. 
They run from the village street into the central place 
with the magic reed in their hands. Each of them must 
have both his hands upon the reed, which is pointing 
towards the ground. They strike the ground at intervals 
with the reed, while they utter a high-pitched scream 
(igovasi) . « Arrived at the opposite end of the place, they 
turn about and throw the reed into the air. The man 
who catches the reed scores a point in this contest for 
renown, and will be spoken of all over the district when 
the feast is gossiped about and its heroes mentioned. 



Then the men of the reed utter another very loud cry 
and this gives the signal for the drummers to beat, for 
the conch-shells to blow, and for the dancers to begin their 
final performance. 


We now pass to the most important system of magic 
connected with erotic life in the Trobriands, the magic 
of love. While the magic of beauty is always associated 
with ceremonial events, such as the kula (ceremonial ex- 
change), first pregnancy celebrations, a kayasa (period of 
competitive activity), or an usigolay the magic of love 
is performed whenever occasion arises. While the magic 
of beauty, again, is always done openly and in public, that, 
of love is a private matter and carried out on the indi- 
vidual's own initiative. This, of course, does not mean 
that there is anything illicit or clandestine about the magic 
of love. People who possess it boast about it, and talk 
about having put it in operation. Nor, from the nature 
of the rites, would it be possible to conceal it completely 
from its object. The magic of love becomes illicit only 
in so far as the love itself is illicit 5 as, for instance, when 
it is directed towards a chief's wife, or towards some other 
tabooed person. 

It has been mentioned that this magic belongs to a 
systefn. A system of magic in the Trobriands is a series 
of spells, which accompany some chain of linked activities 
and are performed in a fixed order following the develop- 



ment of the chain. In economic pursuits such as garden- 
ing, fishing, the construction of a canoe, or a kula expe- 
dition, or, again, in the magic of beauty just described, 
the rites accompany each successive stage of the enterprise, 
which naturally proceeds in a definite order. 

But there are other spheres of magic where the system 
possesses a slightly different character. For instance, 
sorcery is believed to be the real cause of disease. In- 
deed, black magic must be effective and finally fatal, 
frovided that it is properly carried out with due observ- 
ance of all conditions, and frovided that it is not met by 
a stronger counter-magic. The sorcerer opens the attack, 
the victim defends himself by securing counter-magic, and 
by making use of every factor which could counteract the 
full efficiency of black magic. Even if the sorcerer is 
successful, or partially so, the resultant illness does not 
develop along fixed lines as does the growth of a garden. 
Hence this system cannot follow a fixed sequence of 
events. Instead, a system of black magic consists of a 
succession of spells and rites which gradually increase in 
strength. When the sorcerer is successful, the increasing 
strength of his spells produces the more rapid decline of 
his victim until death supervenes. If the sorcerer is being 
thwarted, he launches increasingly strong formulas in 
order to get at his victim through the barrier of precau- 
tions, adverse conditions, and counter-magic with which 
the latter has protected himself. 

Let us examine black magic, not from the native, but 
from the ethnographer's point of view. A sorcerer either 
is paid to remove a victim or does so from personal mo- 



tives. It may happen, by a mere coincidence, that the 
victim falls more or less seriously ill within a few weeks 
of the initial operations. As black magic is often adver- 
tised and always suspected, the illness is put down to its 
influence. If it be known that a powerful sorcerer, in the 
pay of a chief, is at work, suggestion may have a serious 
effect on the victim. It does not follow that he gives in 
utterly and dies, but I suspect that this occasionally^ hap- 
pens/ As a rule, however, if pressed hard, the victim 
will mobilize all the forces of defence. He will put 
counter-magic in operation 3 set armed watches at night 
around him 3 move away to another place, change his diet, 
and observe all the taboos and other conditions of recov- 
ery. Thus we have the interplay of two forces in the 
imagination of the patient, corresponding to the inter- 
play of the two real forces in his organism: resistance 
and disease. The progress of the system of magic, ac- 
companied by the progress of the system of counter-magic, 
proceed side by side with the struggle between the or- 
ganism and the invading forces of bacteria or malignant 
changes. Once the sorcerer has determined on black 
magic, or has received payment for it, he has to go 
through the whole repertory from the initial formula to 

1 1 have no well-attested instance in my notes, but several cases of rapid 
wasting disease have appeared to me to belong to this category. Exam- 
ples of people dying from sheer conviction that a broken taboo has a 
lethal influence, or that black magic, too powerful to be counteracted, has 
been set in motion against them, are numerous in ethnographic literature. 
The argument in the text does not rest on the assumption, however, that 
what might be called psychological death from sorcery is inevitable. It 
rests rather on the principle which we can regard as established by mod- 
ern psycho-therapy that a conviction of good and bad influences working 
upon the patient's health is a most powerful element in the treatment, 
Cf. P. Janet, Les Medications Psycholoffigues, 1920. 



the final pointing o£ the bone — even i£ he has to admit 
failure in the end. An unwittingly broken taboo is per- 
haps an important sorcerer's best excuse for unsuccess j but 
bad luck in the final application of charmed substances 
and powerful counter-magic also serve to account for the 
impotence of his magic. After such failure, the sorcerer 
bides his time and awaits a suitable opportunity — such, 
for instance, as his victim actually falling ill. Then he 
sets to work again. For though the natives believe that 
real illness (silami) can be produced only by magic, they 
are perfectly well aware that an indisposition (kaioulo) 
which may be natural forms an excellent soil for the 
operations of sorcery. 

It was necessary to enlarge on the general character 
of magical systems, and on the distinction between the 
system which follows the naturally determined progress 
of activity or enterprise, on the one hand, and the system 
which follows a course determined by the chance play 
of unknown factors on the other, in order to lay bare the 
essential character of love hiagic. This type also deals 
with a configuration of chances and elements which do 
not follow a definite natural course. Here also the belief 
is very strong that love magic, properly executed and not 
counteracted, is infallible. The nanola (mind and emo- 
tional centre) of man or woman cannot resist the com- 
plete consecutive series of rites and spells j even if it were 
no more than strongly affected by the initial steps, it must 
succumb to the cumulative ritual — that is if the magic 
be not magically counteracted. For here also there are 
causes which account for failure 3 the performer may not 


have the words accurately or he may have broken a con- 
ditional taboo 5 or a counter-magic may frustrate his almost 
successful attempts. As in all supernatural control of 
chance, magical infallibility is absolute only under abso- 
lutely perfect conditions 5 that is to say, it is never at- 
tained in practice, though it may be claimed in theory. 


In following the practice of love magic through its 
successive stages, we must have in mind the setting of a 
Trobriand love story, in ordinary village life and among 
the customary forms of communication between the sexes. 
Although girls are said to practise this magic, it is more 
usual for the man to take the initiative. The story begins 
in the ordinary way: a boy is fascinated by a girl. If 
there be no response and he does not win her favours im- 
mediately, he resorts to the most potent way of courting 
her, that is by magic. 

As in ordinary beauty magic, he must first wash or 
bathe in the sea. Thus he makes himself handsome and 
attractive 3 in the same rite he also charms a responsive 
affection into the loved one's heart. Let us suppose our 
hero to live near the sea. On his way to the shore, he 
gathers in the bush some of the soft spongy leaves of the 
wagevay silaslla^ or fonatile shrubs, and also some leaves 
from a tree with a specially smooth and clean bark — 
preferably from the reyava and gatumwalila. He puts 
the whole bundle into some large leaf and chants the 



special washing formula over it. This corresponds to 
analogous spells in the kula beauty magic and in the 
beauty magic described in the previous sections. 

One of the kaykakaya spells of love magic, which I 
obtained, may be freely rendered thus: 

The Kaykakaya Spell 

Leaves of dirt and leaves of cleansing, 

Leaves of dirt and leaves of cleansing, 

Smooth as the bark of the reyava tree 

As the tail of the opossum. 

My face shines in beauty; 

I cleanse it with leaves; 

My face, I cleanse it with leaves, 

My eyebrows, I cleanse them with leaves. 

And SO on. 

The boy then has to name various parts of the head 
and of the body, adding after each the word ayoUse^ which 
has been translated here: "I cleanse with leaves." These 
were the parts named by the informant who gave me the 
charm: head, face, eyebrows, nose, cheek, chin, jaws, 
throat, shoulders, larynx, breasts, flanks, armpits, but- 
tocks, thighs, knees, calves, and feet. The formula then 

Beautiful will my face remain. 

Flashing will my face remain, 

Buoyant will my face remain! 

No more it is my face, 

My face is as the full moon. 

No more it is my face, 

My face is as the round moon. 

I pierce through, 

As the creamy shoot of the areca leaf, 

I come out, 

As a bud of the white lily. 

Then the charmed leaves are carefully wrapped up, 
lest the magic virtue should evaporate {kayawa)^ and the 

366 ' 


boy washes himself in water. When he is thoroughly 
cleansed, the wrapping is opened, and the skin rubbed 
all over and dried with the charmed leaves. At this point 
the rite takes on its specific character as part of a system 
of love magic j for the leaves that have been thus used 
are thrown into the sea, with the words: ^^Kirisana akay- 
kakayay kula kworisaki matana . . ." (here the girl's per- 
sonal name is mentioned). The word kirisanay also 
known in the form kirisala or km-isaluy signifies the influ- 
ence which a dream induced by magic may exercise over 
the seat of the emotions — ^the heart, as we would say- — 
the belly, as the natives put it.^ The word might be 
rendered: "The spell or the influence of a magical act 
in inducing a dream." The verbal form is korisaki with 
the active suflix -ki. The translation of the sentence 
would, therefore, run as follows: "Dream-spell of my 
kaykakaya charm, go and effectively influence the eye of 

Thus the rite has a twofold effect: it makes a man 
beautiful, as does all washing magic, and it carries sweet 
dreams about him into the mind of the girl. As the 
natives put it, referring to the ritual casting of the herbs 
into the sea: "As the leaves will be tossed by the waves, 
and as they move with the sea up and down, so the inside 
of the girl will heave." 

What follows depends, as in sorcery, upon the effect 
of what has already been accomplished. If the loved one 
surrenders easily, perhaps one more formula will be re- 
cited, to attach her affections the more securely. But if 

1 Cf. below, ch. xii, sec. i. 



the washing magic fails completely, another attack is made 
on the beleaguered heart by means of a stronger magic 
called the kasina. This has to be administered through 
the mouth. A piece of food or betel-nut — or, to-day, 
some tobacco — is charmed and given to the girl. The 
washing magic has already made her more interested in 
her suitor and, though she is not yet prepared to yield, 
she will probably ask for some such small gift. In any 
case, she will not refuse such an offering, even though 
she suspects that it is given with an ulterior motive. 

The Kasina Spell 

My flashing decoration, my white skin! 

I shall take the faces of my companions and rivals; 

I shall make them be cast off. 

I shall take my face, the face of me (personal name), 

And I shall get a flattery-bond for it 

For my beautiful full-moon face. 

The simile in the last line would not perhaps send a 
thrill to the heart of a white girl, but the full moon, for 
the Trobriander, is a symbol of colour and of roundness 
in a more emotionally appealing sense than it is with us. 
The "flattery-bond" {tilewa^i) has already been explained 
above (sec. 3). 

When the girl has eaten this little douceur, the magic 
enters into her inside and moves her mind. There is a 
fair chance already that her affections are favourably 
inclined, but a still more potent magic remains. The first 
attack, as we saw, was through the ethereal medium of 
dreams 5 the second, by the very material way of eating 5 
there remain the two senses of touch and smell. These 
are considered the most susceptible in love magic. 



The next rite, therefore, centres round an aromatic 
herb called kwoyawaga^ which grows only in the eastern 
islands and has to be traded mainly from Kitava. This 
herb is put into a receptacle with coco-nut oil, and the 
following spell is chanted over it: 

The Kwoyawaga Spell 

Spread out, fold up, 

Spread out, fold up, 

I cut oif, I cut, I cut. 

A bait for a bird, for a small fish-hawk, 

Vviy wvegu-guyo, o! 

My kayro'hiva love charm remains, 

My kayro'iiva love charm weeps, 

My kayro'izua love charm pulls, 

My kayro'i'wa love charm spills over. 

Press down, press upon thy bed ; 

Smooth out, smooth your pillow-mat; 

Enter my house and tread upon my floor. 

Tease out and tear out my hair; 

Drink my blood and take hold of my penis; 

Apicem penis suge, for my guts are moved. 

This formula is much more obscure than the previous 
ones. The first sentence, "spread out, fold up," may 
refer, as my informants told me, to the mat on which a 
boy and girl recline in amorous embrace. The cutting, by 
analogy with similar formulas, is of the plants to be used 
in the magic. In the next phrase, the magic is likened 
to a bait for a bird and the girl to a fish-hawk which 
hovers over the trap. One sentence I was unable to 
translate even approximately, and it is therefore given in 
native. What follows is less cryptic. Kayro^iwa is the 
name of one of the systems of love magic, with which 
we shall become more intimately acquainted in connection 
with the native myth of incest (ch. xiv). The last part 
is typical of the more passionate forms of love magic. 



I have obtained several formulas with similar endings. 

I may add that, for every formula which I was able 
to write down, to check after a few weeks' interval, to get 
a commentary upon, and to translate into anything like 
sense, I had to reject several as spurious, fragmentary 
or not understood by the natives. I was always able to 
distinguish the genuine archaic formulas from the cor- 
rupt, by the method of checking and re-checking them 
with my original informant, after having allowed an 
interval of time to elapse after each repetition. 

To return to the magic of the kwoyawaga herbs, this 
charmed and prepared aromatic substance can only be 
used at close quarters. An even more intimate approach 
to the desired girl has to be effected than is possible with 
the piece of betel-nut or tobacco of the previous ritual. 
For some of the aromatic oil must be smeared upon her 
body, or poured on to her face, or, best of all, applied 
to her breasts. Thus close physical contact is needed, and 
for this, opportunities are given in games, in dances, in 
tribal festivities, and in the rhythmic round called the 
karibom. Only when a boy is very clumsy or shy, or ha$ 
no opportunity for intimate approach, will he put the 
oil on a piece of cigarette paper (or, in olden days, on a 
flower), so that the smoke or scent may enter her nostrils. 

There remains still one rite — ^that of the all-powerful 
6ulwmwoyay the mint plant, which is the symbol of 
charm and seduction, the main instrument of attraction in 
the kula (ceremonial exchange), the herb which plays the 
central part in the myth of the origins of love, and which 
figures also in the culminating act of love magic. This 



ritual would still be performed, even if the magic had 
been successful at an earlier stage. For sulumwoya gives 
a full and undivided sway over the loved one's heart. 
Boge htfaykt kutnaydonay maglla yaklda^ "Already she 
will refuse all others j her desire is only for us." This 
is the formula of the sulumwoya magic in the kayroHwa 

Sulumwoya Spell 

O, her sensual excitement! 

O, her erotic swoon! 

O, desire, O feminine swoon ! 

My clasping, thy clasping, kindle our erotic swooning! 

My embraces, thy embraces, kindle our erotic swooning! 

My copulation, thy copulation, kindle our erotic swooning! 

The same complicated phrasing is repeated with a 
number of words inserted instead of clasping, embracing 
and so forth. The words are: horizontal motion {bila- 
bala)y horizontal repose {bilamafu)^ erotic scratching 
{kimaU\ erotic biting {kayalu)^ nose rubbing {yayaulo\ 
and eyelash biting {mitakuku)y lousing {kofokutu\ rub- 
bing each other's lips (kawidova). Then come the fol- 
lowing sentences: 

My going first, thy following, kindle our erotic swooning, 
My waiting, thy waiting, kindle our erotic swooning. 

and finally: 

Thou goest my way, crying for me, 

Thou enterest my house, smiling at me. 

The house is shaken with joy, as thou treadest my floor. 

Tease and tear out my hair, 

Drink my blood. 

So that my feelings are glad. 

This is a long formula — ^the longer since, as in all 
Trobriand magical spells, the middle part, the litany, is 


always repeated over and over again, and not necessarily 
in the same order. It is chanted over a mint plant boiled 
in coco-nut oil. If the magic is practised on someone 
whose love has already been captured, there is no difficulty 
in spilling the scented and charmed oil over her, or 
anointing her with it. If she is not yet subdued, the 
problem remains of entering her hut at night, and spill- 
ing some of it below her nostrils, so that she may dream 
of the magic maker. But if this is achieved the spell is 

Less certain methods are to smear the oil over her 
hands, or bring some of it near to her facej or to take a 
sweet-smelling sprig of herbs, dip it in the oil and flick 
it under her nose. These three methods obviously make 
her cognizant that love magic is being employed j and this 
produces the desired effect — ^psychologically at least, if 
not magically! 

As an additional charm, the same formula may be re- 
cited over the long spine of a fish called ufnlaybasiy a prick 
from which inflicts a lasting and smarting pain. Holding 
it in the hollow of his hand, the boy brings his lips close 
to his hand and chants the spell into it, after which the 
spine may be put into the stopper of the coco-nut bottle 
in which the oil is being kept. Or else, holding it in the 
hollow of his hand, the boy may stab the girl with his 
finger in the ribs or thereabout j or, during the kariboniy 
he may make one of those even more intimate insertions 
already mentioned (ch. ix, sec. 3). 




A direct and consecutive statement of a complex and 
somewhat chaotic subject such as that of love magic 
inevitably suggests more precision and system than ac- 
tually exists, especially when the component parts hang 
together, at least in theory. And it is well to realize that 
actual proceedings are never as complete and well de- 
fined as might appear from native statements. 

A certain amount of complication is introduced by the 
fact that there are a number of different systems. The 
most famous one is that of KayroHwa. But the systems 
of Kwoygafani and LibofnatUy from the islands of 
Vakuta and Kayleula respectively, are also prominent. 
These systems, being perhaps the most widely known 
and practised, have now become mixed up and few natives 
have a complete set of formulas belonging to the same 
system. As a matter of fact, only a few of my informants, 
even among those who boasted of having a powerful set 
of formulae, could go through a full set satisfactorily. 
Each knew two or three or only one spell. I may add 
that perhaps no native in the Trobriands would be able 
to judge magical texts as well as myself. For no human 
memory is a match for a written comparative collection. 
Towards the end of my field-work, I found little diffi- 
culty in deciding whether a spell recited to me was genuine 
or corrupt j and, in the latter case, whether it was delib- 
erate deception, self-deception, or deception on the part 



of my informant's predecessor, or just lack of memory* 

What matters to us is that few natives are in posses- 
sion of a full system in an unadulterated form. A youth 
who knows his spell or two — sometimes only a frag- 
ment — ^will as a rule genuinely believe that there is a 
great deal of virtue in itj very often experience 
strengthens his belief. He will recite his fragment or his 
full charm over the kaykakaya leaves, and if unsuccess- 
ful he will try his formula over the other herbs. 

Each rite has a certain positive effect on him and usually 
also on his sweetheart. The washing magic gives him 
the conviction of increased strength and power to attract, 
an attitude very favourable to his enterprise. The same 
magic makes him hope that the girl has dreamed of him,, 
and that she is ready to receive his advances. He ap- 
proaches her with confidence, and jokes with her without 

The other rites afford a still more material help in 
love-making. All of them imply a direct contact j a gift, 
an erotic touch, the wafting of some scent. Thus not only 
does he believe in his magical powers, but she also is 
made aware that he is working on her heart. And she 
also is susceptible to the influence of belief and tradition. 
If he is hopelessly repulsive to her, this need not shatter 
her belief in love magic. She concludes that his rites are 
spurious and his formulae badly recited. But if he has 
the least attraction for her, it is easy to see how magic will 
do its work. 

These conclusions are based on observation of native 
behaviour, on statements of natives, and on the actual 



working of love magic in cases analysed to me by my 
friends as they were proceeding. 

The deep conviction of the natives in the virtue of love 
magic and their belief that it is the only means of wooing, 
have already been mentioned. All a man's hopes of suc- 
cess, his boasting and his anticipations are based on con- 
fidence in his magical equipment, exactly as all failure is 
attributed to lack or impotence in this respect. I have 
already several times alluded to Gomaya: vain, arrogant, 
and wilful, yet with remarkable personality. He always 
used to vaunt his success with women, and invariably in 
terms of magic. He would say: "I am ugly, my face is 
not good-looking. But I have magic, and therefore all 
women like me." He would then boast of his intrigues 
with Ilamweria, of the attachment that his cross-cousins 
had for him, and of other amorous successes, some of 
which have already been mentioned in this volume. My 
other informants were one and all agreed in their convic- 
tion of the potency of love magic. To a direct question 
I would always receive the same answer: "If one man is 
good-looking, a good dancer, and a good singer, and he 
has no magic j while the other man is ugly, lame, and 
dark-skinned, but has good magic 3 the first will be re- 
jected, the second will be loved by women." 

This, of course, is exaggeration for the sake of em- 
phasis, typical of a Melanesian's way of presenting mat- 
ters. All natives know the magic, yet not all by any 
means have the same success. Met by such an argument, 
the natives will say that the man who has success has it 
because his magic is "keen and strong." And here the 



fiction of native belief comes nearer to reality. A man of 
intelligence, of strong will, personality, and tempera- 
ment, will have greater success with women than a beauti- 
ful but soulless dullard — in Melanesia as in Europe. A 
man who is convinced that he is going the right way to 
workj a man who has the energy to find out who has the 
best magic and the industry to acquire and learn it, such 
a man will be good at love-making as well as at magic. 
The native belief thus expresses some truth, though it is 
psychological rather than physical or occult, and refers to 
results rather than to mechanism. 

Gomaya was a case in point. The five sons of To'uluwa 
and Kadamwasila were all pleasant and clever, attractive 
and enterprising, and were all renowned for their love 
magic. As a matter of fact, the first and last of the 
formulas here given I received from Yobukwa'u who, 
knowing only two out of the four charms, yet achieved 
an incestuous love-affair with his father's youngest wife, 
several adulteries, and two engagements one after the 
other. All these affairs were attributed to love magic j 
as was the case with Kalogusa, his younger brother, who 
subdued Yobukwa'u's fiancee, Isepuna. Another of the 
five brothers, Gilayviyaka, with whose intrigues too we 
are already acquainted, was also reputed to be an expert 
at love magic. Many more examples could be adduced, 
but it is better to keep to the more notorious cases. 

Bagido'u, the nephew and heir-apparent of the prin- 
cipal chief, an extremely intelligent and pleasant infor- 
mant, was ill of some internal wasting sickness, probably 
tuberculosis. We have already heard of his domestic 



mishaps, the defection of his handsome wife, who left him 
in order to join her late sister's husband, Manimuwa, a 
young, healthy and handsome man of Wakayse (see ch. 
vi, sec. i). She often visited her sister, and during the 
latter's last illness she stayed for a long time with her 
brother-in-law. The issue was obvious: Manimuwa and 
Dakiya formed an attachment and entered upon an illicit 
intrigue, which ended in her joining him. Magic was 
blamed for all the trouble. Even Bagido'u himself, the 
deserted husband, would say that she was a good woman, 
but that this bad man had first performed evil magic to 
estrange her from her husband, and afterwards love magic 
to seduce her. Dakiya, in fact, was quoted as the classical 
instance of the power of magic. "Magic made the mind 
of Dakiya 5 Manimuwa only remains in her mind." The 
comic side of this otherwise sad story was that Bagido'u 
had the reputation of being the greatest expert in the 
magic of love. Of course, my informants were ready 
with explanations of the theoretical conundrums involved. 
Finally to return once more to a story which is a case 
in point: the tragedy of Namwana Guya'u's expulsion 
from the village by the kinsmen of Mitakata (see ch. i, 
sec. 2). On my return after more than a year's absence 
from the Trobriands, I met Namwana Guya'u in one of 
the southern villages. His hatred of Mitakata was as 
implacable as ever. When I asked him what had hap- 
pened to his enemy, he told me that the wife of Mitakata, 
Orayayse, had rejected him (see pi. 25). She was, as a 
matter of fact, the first cousin of her husband's enemy, 
and I knew that her husband had sent her away for 



political reasons. But Namwana Guya'u hinted that he 
had estranged her feelings from her husband by magic. 
Then he enlarged on the bad habits of his enemy. "He 
tries to get hold of girls and they refuse him"j yet he 
had to inform me that Mitakata had married Ge'umwala, 
a young and pretty girl. ^^Boge^ ivakome minana; magila 
imasisi deli; rn^tage bivaHy ifayki — matauna ib?a?^ "Al- 
ready he gave magic to her to eat; her desire to sleep 
together 5 but to marry she refused — he took her by 
force." Here then the value of the success was actually 
minimized by its attribution to love magic; and the con- 
sent to marriage, which cannot be won by any such im- 
personal means, was denied to his enemy by Namwana 



In the Trobriands all positive magic has a negative 
counterpart, in belief and theory at least, if not always 
in reality. The magic of health and disease is the clearest 
example, for, against every rite and spell which produces 
disease, there is a counter-magic which cures it. The posi- 
tive magic of success, which accompanies each economic 
enterprise, always implies the existence of a negative pre- 
ventive rite, which accounts for the possibility of failure in 
positive magic. 

So it is not surprising to find that love-charms have to 
contend with a magic which acts in the opposite direction. 
This is the magic of estrangement and oblivion, a depart- 
ment of black magic, generically called hulubwalatay 



though in its narrower meaning this term designates just 
this magic. The root bulu on which the word is built is 
also the formative element "pig" {hulukwd). Whether 
this means that the prototype of all this magic con- 
sists of the rites which aim at the dispersion of pigs 
by malicious magic, I was unable to decide. The fact 
is, however, that this magic is used for sending away 
pigs into the bush as well as for estranging wives and 

Whenever a man has reasons for hating a girl or, even 
more often, her paramour or her husband, he will practise 
this magic. It acts upon her mind, and turns away her 
affections from her husband or lover. She leaves his 
house, leaves her village, and wanders away. The in- 
formant who gave me the following spells told me that 
when the magic is administered in a mild form, the girl 
will leave her husband or lover, but return to her own 
village and her own people 3 but if it is given in a large 
quantity, and properly, with minute observation of ac- 
curacy in spell and rite and in the taboos, she will run 
away to the bush, lose her road, and maybe disappear for 
ever. In this, as in other types of magic, the man might 
recite the initial spell only in order to produce a partial 
effect, that is to alienate the girl's feelings from her sweet- 
heart or husband. 

The following formula has to be said over a piece of 
food, or some tobacco, or some betel-nut, which is then 
given to the victim. It is called kahmlova (literally 
"causing to reject"), and may be freely translated as 



His name be extinguished, his name be rejected; 

Extinguished at sunset, rejected at sunrise; 

Rejected at sunset, extinguished at sunrise. 

A bird is on the baku, 

A bird which is dainty about its food. 

I make it rejected! 

His mint-magic, I make it rejected. 

His kayro'iiua magic, I make it rejected. 

His libomatu magic " " 

His copulation magic " " 

His horizontal magic " " 

His horizontal movement " 

His answering movement " 

His love dalliance " " 

His erotic scratching " " 

His caresses of love " " 

His love embraces " " 

His bodily embracing " " 

My kabisilo'va spell, 

It worms its way within you, 

The way of the earth heap in the bush gapes open, 

The way of the refuse heap in the village is closed. 

In the opening lines there is a play upon two words^ 
both of which contain the root of the verbs "to extinguish'^ 
and "to reject." The spell begins, therefore, with an 
anticipation of its primary effect. It goes on to invoke 
oblivion openly and in detail: all caresses are to be for- 
gotten. Two lines follow to give power to the spell, 
that it may insinuate itself into the mind of the girl, 
and worm its way into all her thoughts. Finally the 
jungle is opened to the girl and the way to the village 

The following spell, obtained from the same infor- 
mant, was said to be a stronger instalment of this magic. 
It is administered in the same way, or else it is said over 
some leaves and coco-nut husk, which are then burnt 
above a fire, so that the evil-smelling smoke may enter 
the nostrils of the girl to be bewitched. Freely translated 
it runs: 



Woman, woman repelled, 

Man, man repelled. 

Woman, woman refusing, 

Man, man refusing. 

She is repelled, she refuses. 

Thy man, thy sweetheart, startles and frightens you, 

Swear at him, by his sister; 

Tell him, ''Eat thy filth." 

Thy road is behind the houses 

His face disappears. 

The way of the earth heap in the bush gapes open, 

The way of the refuse heap in the village is closed. 

His face disappears; 

His face vanishes; 

His face gets out of the way; 

His face becomes like that of a wood-spirit; 

His face becomes as that of the ogre Dokonikan. . 

There falls, forsooth, a veil over thy eyes 

The evil magic comes, 

It covers completely the pupils of the eyes. 

His mint-magic is as nought. 

His love-magic is as nought, 

His erotic scratchings are as nought. 

His love caresses are as nought, 

His copulations are as nought, 

His horizontal movement is as nought, 

His movement in response is as nought, 

His bodily relaxing is as nought. 

The first period of the spell is then repeated up to 
the words "she is repelled, she refuses," and it then con- 

Thy sun Is westering, thy sun goes down. 
Thy sun is westering, thy sun shines aslant. 
She is cut off, she goes far away, 
She goes far away, she is cut off. 

The only point in this formula which may need ex- 
planation is the sentence inviting the girl to swear by his 
sister at her husband. Such abuse is one of the deadliest 
offences, and especially so between husband and wife. 
We shall speak about it in chapter xiii. 

Although the magic of the buluhwalata is negative in 
regard to love magic, yet the evil done by it cannot be 



undone by love formulas. But if a man, in passing anger,, 
should have done great injury to a home by practising 
this evil magic, there is, within its own system, a possible 
remedy in the "fetching back" formula, the katuyumaya- 
fmla {katuyufnall — an archaic form of kd*ifnaUy the ordi- 
nary form for "return, give back"). This formula has to 
be spoken in the open, owadola wala ("just in the 
mouth"), as the natives say. But the magician has ta 
recite it towards the various points of the compass suc- 
cessively, so that the magical virtue may reach the woman 
wherever she may be wandering in the bush. This 
formula also begins by a play on words containing the 
formative roots of the verbs "to make up" and "to at- 
tract." Then follows: — 

May my buluhivalata be blunt! 

May my fetching magic be keen! 

I am fetching back! 

From the north-eastern quarter, I am fetching back; 

From the south-eastern quarter, I am fetching back; 

From the jungle of Ulawola, I am fetching back; 

From the jungle of Tepila, I am fetching back; 

The one who is like a woodsprite, I am fetching back; 

From the stone heaps, I am fetching back; 

From the boundary stone walls, I am fetching back; 

From the fern thickets, I am fetching back; 

With the smell of mint magic, I am fetching back; 

I am fetching back thy mind, O woman! 

Come back to us-thy-mother. 

Come back to us-thy-father. 

Tear open the house. 

Tease and tear off my hair, 

Tread on my floor, 

And lie on my bed, 

Come and pass over the threshold, 

Come and remain at thy dung-heap, 

Let us continue to dwell together, 

Within our house. 

Here the intention of the opening sentences is clear, 
the evil magic is to be impotent, the good magic effective. 



The truant is called back from the several points of the 
compass and from the two parts of the jungle (Ulawola 
and Tepila), one in the North and the other in the 
South, which, surrounded by marshes {dumia)^ are per- 
haps the most inaccessible spots in the main island of the 
Trobriands, and are regarded as the home of the bush pig. 
The last part, as the reader has probably noticed, is built 
on the same pattern as the formula of the love magic. 
The compound words "us-thy-mother," "us-thy-father" 
are constructed with the inclusive dual possessive ma. 
Thus by the magical virtue of this charm the man and 
woman should not only be as husband and wife should be 
to one another in the conjugal house, but as the father 
and mother in the parental home also. 

This formula is said to be very powerful, and to have 
restored married happiness to scores of broken households. 

With the pious hope that this is true we may conclude 
the present chapter. 




So far we have studied the psychology of sex as it is 
embodied in stereotyped behaviour 5 that is, in customs, 
institutions, and in magic. In short, in order to gauge 
his attitude towards sex, we have studied how a Tro- 
briander acts. Now we must turn to such manifestations 
of sexual ideas and feelings as are to be found in dreams, 
day-dreams, and folk-tales j that is, in his free and set 
fantasies about the past, about the future, about distant 
countries, and above all about his life in the next world. 
This chapter will be simply a record of collected data, 
but even such records are inevitably made with certain 
problems in view and are influenced by the mental atti- 
tude of the recorder. Some academic pedants are apt to 
contemn any signs of a wider knowledge or of intelligence 
on the part of an observer of fact. Theory should be 
eliminated from field-work, so they say 5 but to my mind 
this is mere intellectual hypocrisy, under the cloak of 
purism. The observations which I have made were not 
recorded by some mechanical device or apparatus, but 
were made with my own eyes and ears, and controlled 
by my own brain. The trick of relevant observation con- 
sists, in fact, in this very control. It is quite inevitable 
that my field-work should have been affected by my ideas, 



interests, and even prejudices. The honest way is to 
state them so that they may be more easily detected and, 
if it appears necessary, discounted and eliminated. The 
other way is to conceal them as skilfully as possible. 

The observations to be recorded in this chapter were 
mostly done before my psycho-analytic interest was 
stimulated. In my earlier work, I looked upon folk-lore 
as a direct expression of social and cultural conditions. 
When I found a certain motive, such as that of incest or 
breach of exogamy, in folk-lore, I felt that it was puz- 
zling, but I did not see that it was significant. I treated 
it as an exception which confirms the rule, rather than as 
a clue to further inquiry into typical social taboos and 
repressions. I paid little attention to the investigation of 
dreams, of day-dreams, and of free fantasies. It did 
not take me long to see that dreams did not play the part 
among the Trobrianders ascribed to them by Tylor and 
others, and after that I did not trouble much more about 

Later only, stimulated by some literature sent to me by 
Dr. C. G. Seligman and by his advice, did I begin to test 
Freud's theory of dreams as the expression of "repressed" 
wishes and of the "unconscious," as the negative of 
acknowledged and ofiicial principle and morality. In 
doing this, I came upon important correlations between 
folk-lore and fancy on the one hand, and social organiza- 
tion on the other j and was able to discover certain under- 
currents of desire and inclination running counter to the 
established order of ideas and sentiments, which appear, 
on the surface, insignificant and capricious, but which are 


in reality of great sociological importance/ That in the 
course of my inquiry I had to reject far more of psycho- 
analytic doctrine than I could accept does not in any way 
diminish my obligation 5 and my results showed beyond 
all doubt how even a theory which has, in the light of 
investigation, to be partly rejected can stimulate and 

The source of illicit feelings and inclinations is to be 
found in the social taboos of a community. And the 
failure, indeed the explicit disinclination, of psycho- 
analysts to take social organization seriously, stultifies 
almost completely their own application of their doctrine 
to anthropology.* 

Though no reference will be made to these points in 
what follows, it was fairer to indicate them at the start, 
as they have played some part in the discovery and a con- 
siderable part in the presentation of the material given in 
this and in the following chapters. 


Spontaneous dreams are not of any great importance 
in the life of the Trobrianders. On the whole the natives 
appear to dream but seldom, have little interest in their 
dreams, and do not often tell their experiences on waking 
or refer to dreams in order to explain a belief or justify 

1 Part of my results I have published in the two books on Crime and 
Custom and Sex and Repression. 

2 The reader will find this argument substantiated in my Sex and Re- 



a line of conduct. No prophetic meaning is ascribed to 
ordinary dreams, nor is there any system or code for their 
symbolic interpretation. 

Our interest is mainly in sexual and erotic dreams 3 but, 
in order to understand these, it is necessary to form some 
idea of the native's attitude to dreams in general. And 
at the outset it must be understood that by "ordinary" or 
"free" dreams, I mean spontaneous visions arising in 
sleep, in response to physiological stimuli, to moods and 
emotional experiences, to memories of the day and of the 
past. Such is the material of the dreams which come to 
every human being, and they play, as I have said, a small 
part in Trobriand culture, and are apparently rare and 
easily forgotten. 

Quite another class of dreams are those which are 
prescribed and defined by custom. These are expected 
of certain people by virtue of their position or of some 
task that they have undertaken, as a consequence of magic 
which they have performed, or which has been performed 
upon them, or of the influence of spiritual beings. Such 
stereotyped or standardized dreams are expected, hoped 
for, and awaited j and this might easily account for the 
frequency of their occurrence and for the ease with which 
they are remembered. 

It should be noted that the distinction between free 
and standardized dreams is not made in native termi- 
nology nor even formulated in native doctrine. But as 
will presently be seen, it is embodied in behaviour and 
in the general attitude towards dreams. 

In standardized dreams, a prominent part is played by 



nsions of departed spirits. They appear to people in 
sleep under appropriate circumstances and at certain 
seasons. This is in fact one of the chief ways in which 
they manifest their existence to the living. But not all 
dreams about the departed are regarded as true. The 
appearance may be either a sasofa (lie, illusion) or a real 
haloma (spirit). Real spirits always come with a pur- 
pose and under conditions in which they can properly be 
expected. Thus if a recently dead person appears in 
sleep to a surviving relative, giving him some important 
message or announcing his death at a distance — ^such a 
dream is true. Or when a well-known seer or spiritistic 
medium is visited in his sleep and next day announces the 
message he has received, no one doubts the reality of his 
vision. Or when people go to the island of Tuma and 
there dream of dead relatives, no doubt exists in the na- 
tive mind that these really have appeared to them. Or 
again, in the moon of milamalay when the spirits of the 
dead return to the villages, they will appear to the head- 
man, or to some other notable person, in his sleep and 
convey to him their wishes. Several such nocturnal visits 
occurred during my residence in the Trobriands.^ At 
times a substitution will take place, as when an old woman 
appeared to her son and told him that she was dead, while, 
in reality, it was the mother of another boy working on 
the same plantation who had died in the distant Trobri- 
ands. But there are also visions of dead friends and rela- 
tives who tell untrue things, announce events which never 

1 Cf. my article in the Journ. of the R. Anthrop. Inst., 1916, sec. 3, pp. 
36a sq. 



happened, or behave in an unseemly manner. Such 
dreams are not caused by spirits, who, say the natives, 
have nothing to do with themj and they are not true. 

Another important type of dream in which spirits play 
a part are those which are Initiated by some condition in 
the dreamer. Whereas In visitations at the mllamala^ or 
from the spirit island of Tuma, or directly after the death 
of some person, it Is the recently deceased who are seen, 
in this other class of dreams ancestral spirits of old stand- 
ing are active. Thus when a child Is to be born (see ch. 
viii), the spirit of an ancestress appears and announces the 
coming Incarnation. More Important are the visits of 
ancestral spirits associated with the art of magic, in which 
spirits play a considerable part. Many spells begin with 
a list of persons who have at one time wielded this magic. 
Such lists of ancestral names are perhaps the most uni- 
versal feature of Trobriand spells. In certain magical 
rites., spirits receive offerings of food with a short invo- 
cation j In return they show some concern for the aims of 
the rite and communicate with the magician, thus afFect- 
Ing not only the ritual but also the practical activity which 
goes with it. For a magician has In most cases not merely 
to utter the spell and perform the ritual, but also com- 
prehensively to control the practical activity with which 
his magic is connected. 

To put it more concretely: the ex ojficio leader of a 
kula expedition, the traditional organizer of fishing and 
hunting, the hereditary master-In-charge of the gardens. 
Invariably wields the magic proper to these pursuits. In 
virtue of both offices, he Is credited with deeper knowl- 



edge and greater foresight than his associates. For one 
thing, he is liable, under the control of ancestral spirits, 
to dream about his enterprise. Thus the master of the 
gardens, in dreams inspired by his predecessors in office, 
will learn of impending drought or rain, and he will give 
advice and orders accordingly. The fishing magician 
hears from his ancestral spirit of shoals coming through 
this or that passage in the reef, or swimming along a cer- 
tain channel on the lagoon, and he will order his team to 
set out in the morning and to cast their nets at the appro- 
priate spot and hour.^ 

A cynical ethnographer might be tempted to suspect 
that such prophetic dreams are double-edged: when they 
come true, this is not only practically useful, but proves 
the goodwill of ancestors and the validity of magic 5 when 
they do not come true, it is a sign that the spirits are angry 
and that they are punishing the community for some rea- 
son, and still the truth of magical tradition is upheld. 
The dream in any case serves its purpose to the magician. 
And indeed, in these latter days of disbelief and decay 
of custom, the spirits have frequent occasion to become 
angry, and the magician needs all the means at his dis- 
posal to vindicate his personal authority and to maintain 
belief in his powers. But in the old days, as even now in 
districts with an unimpaired tradition, there was no ques- 

1 Compare the more detailed descriptions of these facts given in other 
places: for the part played by ancestral spirits in magic, article on 
"Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands," Journal of 
the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1916, pp. 384-482; for prophetic 
dreams, p. 366; for milamala dreams, p. 379; for pregnancy dreams, chap, 
vii of this book and "Baloma," pp. 406-18; for the psychology of magical 
filiation and the relation between magic and myth, Myth in Primitive 
Psychology, and chap, xii of Argonauts of the Western Pacific. 


tion of made-up dreams. In any case they were not born 
of anxiety for his own position, but of care for the success 
of the enterprise he was controlling. The garden magi- 
cian, the head fisherman, the leader of an expedition, 
identifies himself to a great extent in ambition, in hope, 
and in eflFort, with the communal interest. He is ex- 
tremely keen that all should go well, that his village 
should surpass all others, that his ambition and pride 
should be justified and win the day. 

There are also dream revelations connected with the 
black magic by which disease and death are produced. 
Here it is the victim who has the vision, and, in fact, this 
is one of the ways of detecting which sorcerer, by evil 
spells and rites, has caused his illness. Since the sick man 
always suspects one or other among his enemies of prac- 
tising or of purchasing sorcery, it is no wonder that such 
dreams reveal a culprit. However, they are naturally not 
regarded as "subjective," but as a by-product of the evil 

Yet another class of dreams, to which allusion has 
already been made (ch. xi, sec. 7), is the dream induced 
by magic not indirectly and secondarily, but as its main 
effect. The natives have a definite theory of magic acting 
through dreams upon the human mind. In connection 
with the half-commercial, half -ceremonial exchange of 
the kulay the magic of compulsion to generosity (the 
mwasila) will be performed, and this acts upon the mind 
of the other party to the transaction. Although distant 
hundreds of miles and separated by stormy seas and 
reefs, the latter will be visited by the "dream response" 



(kirisala) of this magic. He will dream agreeably and 
benevolently of the magic maker, his mind (nanola) will 
soften towards him, and he will be generous in his prepa- 
ration of gifts/ 

Some forms of love magic described in the previous 
chapter are based on the same assumption. Erotic dreams 
(kirisala) are the response to certain charms. Dreams of 
a sexual or erotic nature are in fact always attributed to 
magic. A boy or girl dreams of a person of the opposite 
sexj this means that this person has performed love magic. 
A boy dreams that a certain girl enters his house, speaks 
to him, approaches him, lies beside him on the mat, 
though before she had been unwilling to talk to him or 
even to look at him. Her shyness has been only pretence. 
All the time she was preparing or even performing magic. 
In the dream, she is loving and submissive j she permits 
all caresses and the most intimate approach. The boy 
wakes up: "It is all an illusion (sasopa, literally, a lie)," 
he thinks. "But no, there is seminal fluid spilt over the 
mat." The girl, in her dream-form, has been there. He 
knows that she makes magic for him and already is half- 
inclined to pursue her. This is an account, noted down 
partly in native as it was given to me, from the man's 
point of viewj but an analogous dream would come to a 
girl. It is characteristic that the dream takes place, not 
in the mind of the performer, but in that of his victim. 

A married man would try to conceal such visitations 

1 1 am afraid I have not made this point quite clear in Argonauts of 
the Western Pacific (cf., however, pp. 102, 202, 203, 360, and 361). Most 
spells of the kula magic act at a distance upon the partner's mind, even 
as they are recited at home. 



from his wife, for she would be angry because he had had 
congress in dreams with another woman. Also she would 
know that the other woman had made magic and would 
be specially watchful, so that the man would find it diffi- 
cult to follow up the dream intrigue. 

One very important class of erotic dreams are those of 
an incestuous nature. There are, however, serious diffi- 
culties in the way of any inquiry about them. Free and 
easy as these natives are, by custom and convention, in 
most sexual matters, they become extremely sensitive and 
prudish whenever their specific sexual taboos are touched 
upon. This is especially true of incest taboos, and above 
all of that one concerning the brother-sister relation. It 
would have been quite impossible for me to inquire di- 
rectly into the incestuous dream experiences of any of my 
informants 5 but even the general question, whether inces- 
tuous dreams occurred, would be met with indignation or 
vehement denial. Only by dint of very gradual and 
guarded inquiry among my most trustworthy informants, 
was I able to find out that such dreams do occur and that, 
in fact, they are a well-known nuisance. "A man is some- 
times sad, ashamed and ill-tempered. Why? Because 
he has dreamed that he had connection with his sister," 
and "This made me feel ashamed," such a man would 
say. The fact that the incestuous dream, especially as 
between brother and sister, occurs frequently and disturbs 
the minds of the natives considerably, accounts in part for 
!he strong emotional reaction to any inquiry into the sub- 
ject. The lure of "forbidden fruit," which everywhere 
haunts men in dreams and day-dreams, suggests inces- 



tuous motives in Trobriand folk-tales and has for ever 
associated love and the magic of love with the myth of 
incest (ch. xiv). 

It is important to note that, as we shall see presently, 
even incestuous erotic dreams are excused on the ground 
that some magic has been misapplied, accidentally mis- 
directed, or wrongly performed with regard to the 

We are now in a position to formulate more precisely 
the native attitude towards dreams. All true dreams are 
in response to magic or to spiritual influence, and are not 
spontaneous. The distinction between free or spontaneous 
dreams on the one hand and stereotyped dreams on the 
other, corresponds roughly to the native distinction be- 
tween dreams which are sasofa (a lie or illusion), and 
those which are induced by magic or spirits — that is, are 
true, relevant and prophetic 5 or again to the difference 
between dreams which come without, and those which 
come with an u*ula (cause or reason). While the natives 
do not attach much importance to spontaneous dreams, 
they regard the others as of the same substance as magical 
influence and as possessing a reality comparable to that of 
the spirit world. The inconsistencies and lacunse in their 
beliefs about dreams are similar to those found in their 
ideas of an after-life in a disembodied state. Most con- 
spicuous in their belief, perhaps, is the view that magic 
first realizes its effect in dreams which, by influencing the 
mind, can thus bring about objective changes and events. 
Thus all "true" dreams may be actually prophetic. 

Another interesting link between dreams and the mys- 



tical doctrine of the Trobriander is the recurrence o£ 
clairvoyant visions in myths and folk-tales — a subject 
only to be touched on here. Thus we shall see in the 
myth of the origins of love, that the man from Iwa is led 
to discover the tragic double suicide and the magical spray 
of mint by a dream of what has occurred in the grotto. 
In a myth about the origins of sorcery, a brother sees in 
a dream that his sister has been killed by the primeval 
crab-wizard. In a folk-tale to be related presently, about 
the snake and the two women, a man from Wawela 
dreams of the distressed maiden and comes to her rescue. 
In other folk-tales, events happening in a different place 
are visualized, or a rhyme sung at a distance acts as a 
spell and produces day-dreams. 

It is clear that dream, day-dream, magical incantation, 
realization by ritual and mythological precedent are 
welded into an interlocking system of self -confirmatory 
realities. Dreaming is conceived as one of the real mani- 
festations of magic, and, as it is a definite personal expe- 
rience, it brings home the efficacy of the specific magic 
employed. It is thus an important empirical link in the 
doctrine of magical efficiency and of mythological reality, 
one which should not be overlooked if we want to under- 
stand the psychology of belief among the Trobrianders. 

The subject of dreams in general, and erotic dreams in 
particular, throws valuable light on the natives' flow of 
imagination and desire. The psychology of their dreams 
is closely parallel to that of romantic love and of "falling 
in love." In native tradition and official doctrine we find 
a distrust of spontaneous and free elements, of untram- 



melled and unprescribed impulses in conduct. Similarly 
we find that the legitimate and true in dreams is always 
due to some definite motive, once for all laid down by 
tradition j and among the motives by far the most impor- 
tant is magic. 

That this official view does not cover the facts, that it 
is not completely true to them, is obvious. In dreams 
as in romantic love and love impulse, human nature 
breaks through and flatly contradicts dogma, doctrine, and 
tradition. Incestuous dreams are the best example of this. 
Established doctrine in the Trobriands as elsewhere makes 
use of man's susceptibility to authoritative suggestion, and 
of his tendency to be impressed by positive instances and 
to forget negative ones. It first makes the distinction 
between true and false dreams 3 then minimizes, explains 
away, or forgets contradictory instances, while using all 
confirmatory ones as further proof of its validity. Thus 
incest, whether in myth, reality, or dream, is always ex- 
plained by an accidental misuse of magic. This motive is 
as clear and prominent in the Trobriand story of incest as 
in our own myth of Tristan and Isolde. 


In passing to the expression of sex in folk-lore, we must 
bear in mind that Trobriand manners do not ban sex as 
a subject for conversation, save in the presence of certain 
tabooed relatives, and Trobriand morals do not condemn 
extra-marital intercourse, except in the forms of adultery 



and incest. The attraction of the subject and its piquancy 
is not due, therefore, to the feeling that it is socially and 
artificially forbidden. And yet there is no doubt that the 
natives regard bawdiness as "improper" j that there is a 
certain strain about it, barriers to be broken and a shyness 
to overcome and a corresponding enjoyment in getting rid 
of the strain, breaking the barriers and overcoming the 

It follows from this emotional attitude that sex is sel- 
dom treated crudely and brutally j that there is a con- 
siderable difference in the manner and tone adopted to- 
wards it by, for instance, a coarse fellow of low rank who 
has no social dignity to maintain, and the descendant of 
chieftains who touches sexual subjects, but touches them 
lightly, with refinement, subtlety, or wit. In short, man- 
ners exist in this matter and are socially valued and graded 
according to rank. Sex, like excretory functions and 
nudity, is not felt or regarded as "natural," but rather as 
naturally to be avoided in public and open conversation, 
and always to be concealed from others in behaviour 3 
hence, to repeat, the "improper" interest in occasional 

Folk-lore, the systematized forms of oral and intel- 
lectual tradition, includes significant games and sports, 
carving and decorative art, folk-tales, typical sayings, 
jokes, and swearing. In the Trobriands, representations 
of sexual matters are completely absent from decorative 
art and from dancing. The only exceptions to this rule 
are to be found in certain artistically inferior modern 
productions, invented under the decomposing influence of 



European culture, though not in any way influenced by 
European patterns. Dancing and decorative art, there- 
fore, do not fall within our scope. For the rest, sexual 
elements in games and sports have already been discussed, 
sex in joking and swearing will be dealt with in the next 
chapter, and there remain, for our present consideration, 
sexual folk-tales and the bawdy figures and sayings con- 
nected with "cat's-cradles." 

String figures or cat's-cradles {ninikula) are played by 
children and adults in the day time during the rainy 
months from November to January, that is, in the sea- 
son when the evenings are passed in reciting folk-tales. 
On a wet day, a group of people will sit under the over- 
hanging roof of a yam house or on a covered platform 
and one will display his skill to an admiring audience. 
Each set of figures has a name, a story, and an interpre- 
tation. Some also have a ditty (vimivina)^ which is 
chanted while the artist evolves and manipulates the 
figure. Many sets are completely devoid of sex interest. 
Among the dozen or so which I have recorded the fol- 
lowing ones show pornographic details.^ 

In kala kasesa Ba^u (the clitoris of Ba'u) the per- 
former, after preliminary manipulations, produces a de- 
sign (Diagr. A, in Fig. Ill) in which two large loops are 
formed in the main plane of the figure, while at the bot- 
tom of each, a smaller loop sticks out at right angles to 
the main plane. The large loops each represent a vulva 
and the smaller ones a clitoris. There is obviously a little 

1 1 did not make any attempt to record the technique of cat's-cradles. 
In each set I merely recorded the significant figure or figures, the mean- 
ing and the psychology. 







anatomical inaccuracy in this arrangement, since in nature 
there is only one organ and in this the clitoris is placed at 
the top and not at the bottom of the vulva. But, no 
doubt, Ba'u was an anomaly. 

The figure complete, the artist skilfully wriggles his 
fingers, producing a movement first in one and then in 
the other of the clitoris loops. While thus engaged, he 
recites rhythmically, but not without jocular inflections, 
the following words: 

Kala kasesa Ba^u (repeated) 
Her clitoris of Ba'u (repeated) 
Kam kasesam, kam kasesamy etc. 
Thy clitoris, thine, etc. 

which might be freely rendered: "Look, that is the cli- 
toris of Ba'u, that is her clitoris. O Ba'u, thy clitoris, O 
thy clitoris!" The movements and song are repeated a 
number of times, to the great amusement of both onlook- 
ers and artist 5 then the figure is undone, to a repetition 
of the words: 

Syagara dyaytu dyaytUy Syagara dyaytu dyaytUy etc. 
These words are merely onomatopoetic, imitating the 
rhythmic beat of the drums in dance music. Ba'u is ob- 
viously a female personality, but nothing is known of her 
besides what we learn from this performance. The cli- 
toris is a favourite subject for jokes, stories, and allusions. 
It is often used in fars fro toto figures of speech and is 
regarded as a specially attractive and funny detail in the 
female organism. 



A short set, entitled with some directness and sim- 
plicity "copulation" {kayta)^ represents this function in 
a naturally somewhat conventionalized manner. The 
strings (Diagr. B, in Fig. Ill) are made to form a dou- 
ble cross, in which the horizontal arm represents the 
woman and the vertical the man. The strings are then 
pulled so that the centre loop, which represents the geni- 
tals, moves rapidly, up and down, and right and left, and 
this, to the imagination of the amused onlookers, stands 
for the characteristic motion in sexual congress. There 
is no ditty to this set. 

Tokay last y the adulterer (C, in Fig. Ill), is a more 
complicated set and requires both hands, the two big toes 
and the heels for its composition. The accompanying 
commentary is just spoken in ordinary prose. The first 
figure (G, i) is formed, in its significant section, of two 
isosceles triangles, one above the other and touching by 
the apex. These triangles represent the adulterer and the 
wife engaged in the act of copulation. To indicate this, 
strings are manipulated so that the point of contact moves 
up and down, while each triangle in turn increases and 
decreases in size. At the same time the artist declares in 
unambiguous language: "This is the adulterer j this is the 
wife; they copulate." The figure will not be devoid of 
significance to those acquainted with the native method of 
copulation described above (ch. x, sec. 12). 

The figure is then dissolved to the artist's comment: 
tokaylasi bila wa hagula, "the adulterer goes to the gar- 
den." He then adds: layla la mwala, "the husband 
comes" — ^and by that time the strings form a figure con- 



sisting of two loops placed at an angle (C, 2). As these 
loops begin to move in their turn, each shrinking and 
expanding (C, 3 and 4), he says placidly: Ikayta la 
kwavciy "he has intercourse with his wife." Thus adul- 
tery in the Trobriands is represented by two triangles 
instead of one. 

One more cat's-cradle of a purely anatomical character 
has still to be mentioned. It is named after the hero 
Sikwemtuya, though this personality has no other claim 
to fame than his cat's-cradle. Four loops symmetrically 
disposed around the central point (D, in Fig. Ill) repre- 
sent the head, the legs and the two testicles of Sikwem- 
tuya. Then this duologue is sung: 

^^Sikwemtuyay Sikwemtuya avaka kuvagi?^^ 
"Sikwemtuya, Sikwemtuya what art thou doing?" 
^^Bayamata la kayhaha guya^u,^^ 

"I guard the decorated food of the chief." 
^^Bagise fuwamP^ 
^^May I see your testicles?" 

With the last words, one of the testicles begins to en- 
large and to move slowly, while Sikv/emtuya, through the 
mouth of the artist, utters a self-satisfied grunting noise, 
somewhat like ka ka ka ka , » . He is then requested to 
show the other one, 

"Tagise pliyuwela" 
"Let's see the other one," 

and answers with the same words, ka ka ka ka . . , and 
a similar exhibition of his second testicle. 



I should like to add that the comical effect o£ the 
grunting noises, kay ka^ ka^ ka, is irresistible, and would 
be as much envied by a modern (and somewhat risque) 
cabaret artist, as Melanesian or West African carvings 
and modellings are admired by modern sculptors. But 
it is very difficult to render linguistic effects and a sense 
of fun and ribaldry embodied in speech through the me- 
dium of another tongue, whereas decorative art, sculp- 
ture, and music speak their own universal language. 

SEX IN folk-lore: FACETIJE 

In the matter of stories, we will begin with the amus- 
ing folk-tales (kukwanebu) told during the evenings of 
the rainy season for the entertainment of young and old. 
They contain accounts of avowedly fantastic and unbe- 
lievable events 3 they are meant to stir the imagination, to 
pass the time pleasantly, and, above all, to raise a laugh 
— at times a very ribald laugh.^ A few of them are en- 
tirely devoid of sexual or scatological motives, and can 
only be touched on here. There is the tale about fire 
and water, in which fire threatens to burn water, but 
water touches it and quenches it. There is one in which 
a greedy crab wants to catch the fruit collected by a grass- 
hopper, but the fruit falls on him and he is killed. A 
pretty story is told of a beautiful girl who is wooed by 
the birds. She finds fault with one after another, and 

1 For a more detailed account of the sociological and cultural character 
of these stories and their relation to other types of folk-lore cf. Myth in 
Primitive Psychology, 



finally accepts the smallest and most modest among them. 
A tale is told of the legendary ogre Dokonikanj his gar- 
dens are robbed by a girl who is imprisoned by him and 
then set free by the youngest of her five brothers, and 
another describes a contest between the same ogre and a 
hero. The latter tale is told, in certain districts, not as a 
myth but as a funny story. A purely gustatory account 
of two brothers, who, after a time of starvation, over-ate 
to bursting point, provokes much laughter by its entirely 
innocent jokes. 

Only in one story does the fun turn on defecation: a 
man sticks to a tree after he has relieved himself, and 
dies as his relatives try to pull him free. In the tale of 
the louse and the butterfly, the joke consists in the louse 
emitting a resounding noise from the rectum, by which 
explosion he is thrown off the butterfly's back and drowned 
in the sea. 

I will now relate the stories with a sexual motive, giv- 
ing them in order of increasing ribaldry. 

The Snake and the Two Women. — Two sisters go in 
search of eggs. The younger, in spite of a warning, takes 
away the eggs of the snake. The mother snake chases 
the thief through all the villages, and finds her at last 
roasting the eggs in her own village of Kwabulo. To 
punish her, the snake enters her body through the vulva, 
coiling up inside it with only the tail and the nose stick- 
ing out. After which, as the natives put it: 

ivagi klrlsala^ ikarisaki matala 

it makes dream response it induces dream eye his 
man of Wawela. 



In other words, this happening brought about a dream 
response, it induced a vision before the eyes of a man of 
Wawela. This man comes to the rescue and, by magic, 
induces the snake to creep out, when he kills it. 

The Two Brothers and. the Chiefs Wife. — ^A younger 
brother goes to a distant chief's garden, meets the chief's 
wife there and they fornicate under a mango tree. He 
is caught by the outraged husband, who brings him to the 
village and places him on a high platform, to await his 
death. However, his brother rescues him by magic, and 
makes all the men of that village disappear by the same 
means J after which the two marry the women and settle 

The Reef Heron and Ilakavetega, — Ilakavetega is an 
old woman who lives with her granddaughters. These 
go to the seashore, where they meet a reef heron who 
inquires who they are. "We are the granddaughters of 
Ilakavetega." "Tell her then," answers the bird, and 
intones : 

Kayfwada^u wila^ 

Full of sores cunnus hers, 

kayfilipli wila, 

full of small sores cunnus hers, 

kayfwada^uyala wilay 

sore covered cunnus hers, 

kaykumikumi wila: 

eaten away by sores cunnus hers: 

i^usi kalu momonay 

It flows down her discharge, 



akanuwast yaegu boH, 

I lap it up myself reef heron. 

This somewhat gratuitous insult is repeated in full and 
with the same sing-song intonation to the grandmother, 
who accompanies her granddaughters to the seashore next 
day, meets the reef heron and hears what he has to say 
for herself 3 so that his song is chanted three times in the 
course of the narrative. The heron unfortunately gets 
entangled among the coral on the reef, and is caught, 
killed, and eaten, but the interests of poetic justice are 
served, for a sorcerer kills Ilakavetega and her grand- 
daughters to avenge the death of this amiable and witty 
bird. Also the sorcerer copulates with each of his victims 
before killing them. 

The Stingaree. — In this story the ribald and dramatic 
interest are nicely balanced. In the village of Okayboma 
there lives a woman, mother of five sons, who is endowed 
with the anatomical anomaly of five clitorises.^ In the 
tidal creek of that village dwells a giant stingaree. One 
day when the boys are out in the taro-garden, the sting- 
aree flops up the mangrove swamp, gets into the village, 
and enters the house, intoning a ribald and cruel ditty: 

vavarty vavari, O vavari, vavari, 
Vari toHy to^L 

Afasisiy afanehay 

1 cut it sore, I scarify it, 

1 The arithmetical expert will, no doubt, discover that the old lady had 
six clitorises. I reproduce the native story as it was given me. 



magusisiy magusike^iy 

I want to cut it, I want to cut at it, 

oritala wila inumwaya^iy 

one cunnus hers slackens, 

bayadi kola kasesUy 

I saw her clitoris, 

ba^ilituUy bitotinay biwokwo, 

I cut off, it snaps, it is over. 

This may be rendered, the onomatopoetic words being 
repeated as they occur: ^^O vavariy vavari, vari to^iy toH — 
I cut it and make a scar of it, I cut it with a will, I like 
to cut at it, one part of her vulva has got slack, I shall 
saw off one of her clitorises, I saw it off till it snaps and 
is gone." 

The stingaree then proceeds to business, copulates with 
the old woman and cuts off one of her multiple append- 
ages. My native informants, in their commentary, af- 
firmed that the vaH had a penis j but it seems more likely 
that those who originally contributed to the making of 
the story were inspired by the long, saw-edged dart in 
the middle of the stingaree's tail, which, were it used as 
a sexual instrument, would certainly have the baleful re- 
sults described in the story. 

The sons come back and the mother complains 5 so the 
eldest one offers to protect her next day. But when the 
stingaree flops along into the village, and when he intones 
his sadistic ditty, and when this chant, like a magical spell, 
produces a portent {kariyala) in the form of lightning 
and thunder, the son runs away and the mother is de- 



prived of another kasesa (clitoris). Nor do the second, 
third, and fourth brothers behave any better. Four times 
does the stingaree repeat every word of his ditty and 
every detail of his behaviour, until the mother is left with 
but one clitoris, and only the youngest son to defend it 
and to save her life. For the story assures us that she 
could not survive the loss of all the five kasesa. 

The youngest son prepares a number of spears made 
of strong hardwood, places them all along the road \vhich 
the cruel fish has to traverse from the creek-head to the 
house, and then waits in ambush. 

When the stingaree appears, he sings his ditty for the 
last time. Now, however, he sings: "One only, a solitary 
one clitoris remains. I have come, I shall finish it off j it 
will be over with her clitorises, she will die." I shall 
quote the end of the narrative in free translation. 

"The stingaree imagines that he will enter the house. 
The son sits high up, on the raised platform in front of 
the house. He grasps the spear, he pierces the stingaree. 
This runs awayj the man, however, comes down. He 
takes the spear made of se*ulawola wood, which he had 
stuck in the areca palm. He throws it, and the impact 
causes the stingaree to stand up. The next spear has 
pierced it also. The man runs to the nam fruit tree, takes 
the spear made of tawaga wood and throws it. He runs 
to the mango tree and takes the spear of hard palm wood, 
he pierces the stingaree's eye. He takes a strong cudgel 
and hammers the stingaree till it dies." The story ends 
with the return of the elder brothers who disbelieve the 
young man's story, until they are convinced by the sight 



of the stingaree's corpse. Then the fish is cut up and 
distributed among those lagoon villages in which it is not, 
as is usual in the Trobriands, considered an abomination. 

The Story of Digamina. — ^The heroine's name etymo- 
logically defines her anatomical peculiarities and her char- 
acter. The root diga means "to fill out," "to pack into"j 
wina is the dialectic and archaic form of wila, cunnus. 
Digawina is endowed with very large and comprehensive 
genitals. It is her custom to attend the big distributions 
of food (sagali) made after a man has died, and to steal 
more than her share j packing coco-nuts, yams, taro, areca 
nuts, betel pods, large chunks of sugar cane, and whole 
bunches of bananas into her vagina. Thus things mys- 
teriously disappear, to the great annoyance of all others 
present, and particularly of those who arrange the feast. 
Her practices are discovered at last. The master of the 
next distribution conceals a large black mangrove crab 
{kaymagu) among the food, who cuts through her kasesa 
(clitoris) and thus kills her." With this tragic event the 
story ends. 

The White Cockatoo and the Clitoris. — ^A woman 
named Karawata gave birth to a white cockatoo, who flew 
away into the bush. One day Karawata went to the gar- 
den, telling her kasesa (clitoris) to look after the kiim- 
kumurl (earth baking oven). The kasesa replies confi- 
dently: Kekekeke. But the white cockatoo has seen 
everything from the bush 5 he swoops down and strikes 
the clitoris, who cries out plaintively: Klkiklkl, and top- 
ples over, while the cockatoo eats the contents of the oven. 
(It is necessary to imagine the big, flat mound-like earth 



oven, the tiny clitoris standing on guard, and the cruel 
white cockatoo watching sardonically for its chance. The 
absurdity of the situation appeals to the natives' sense of 
the ludicrous.) 

Next day, Karawata says again to her kasesa: "Let us 
catch pig, get some yams, and bake it all in the earth." 
Again she takes off her kasesa, and leaves it to look after 
the oven, and the kasesa says confidently as before: 
Kekekeke, Again the white cockatoo descends from the 
branch, strikes the kasesa, who, with a plaintive kikikikiy 
topples over 5 and again the cockatoo eats the contents of 
the oven. Next day the woman says: "I shall go to gar- 
den and you look properly after the food." Kekekeke, 
answers the kasesa, but all that happened on the two pre- 
vious days is repeated, and Karawata and her kasesa die 
of hunger. 

Mwoydakema. — This hero sees two women who are 
going to fetch salt water from the beach. He hails them: 

Wo! tayyu vivila! Wo! mitakuku, 

Wo! two women! Wo! nibbled eyelashes, 

kada mitakuku yoku. 

our (dual) nibbled eyelashes thou. 

This, in free translation, means: 

"Hullo! two women are coming. Hullo! Sweethearts, 
those with whom I would like to exchange nibbling of 

The women answer: 

O gala ikwani, 
O not it grips. 


Which amounts more or less to our colloquial "Nothing 

Mwoydakema then exclaims: 

01 kifnali kadi kimaU yokuy 

which means: "O thou, erotic scratching"; in other 
words: "You with whom I would like to exchange erotic 

The women, however, walk on and leave him to the 
polishing of his stone axe. But he runs ahead of them 
to the beach and, by means of a magic ditty, moves the 
sea, which covers him and leaves him buried in the sand 
with only the penis sticking out. 

The women come upon this solitary object on the 
beach, and begin to quarrel about to whom it belongs. 
Finally, one after the other, they bestride it, pulling each 
other off, and each wanting to enjoy it as long as possible. 
This to the natives is the most hilarious part of the nar- 
rative. After they have gone, Mwoydakema shakes off 
the sand, runs back to his axe, and hails the women again 
(almost in the same words) as they walk back from the 
beach. Next day the same events are repeated, and the 
women have three turns each at the ^'stick" (as they call 
it) on the beach. On the third day the same thing hap- 
pens again, but after the women have enj oyed the "stick," 
they conceive the idea of digging it up and taking it home. 
They gradually discover the various parts of Mwoyda- 
kema, till he jumps up and runs away. And when they 
go back to the village they have to pass him once more, 
and he teases them with their performances. 



Momovda. — Momovala goes with his daughter to the 
garden and sends her up a tree. He looks up and sees 
her genitals, and emits the long-drawn katugogova. This 
is produced by giving voice on a high-pitched note, while 
the sound is interrupted by the rapid beating of the mouth 
with the hand. It is used to express intense emotional 
excitement of a pleasant kind. She asks him why he 
screamed. "I saw a green lory," he answers. The same 
sequence is repeated, and he mentions another bird, and 
so on several times over. When she comes down from 
the tree, the father has already discarded his pubic leaf 
and is in a state of erection. She is very confused, and 
weeps. He, however, seizes her, and copulates and copu- 
lates. After all is over, she sings a ditty which may be 
rendered: ^^O Momovalay Momovala! Gut of my gut, 
father my father. Father by name, he seized me, he 
brought me, he wronged me." The mother hears her 
and guesses what has happened. "Already he has got 
hold of the girl and copulated. I shall go and see." 

The mother meets them, the girl complains and the 
father denies. The girl goes to the seashore with all her 
belongings, and sings to a shark to come and eat up, first 
her wooden board for the making of grass skirts, then 
her basket, then one arm, then the other arm, and so on, 
interminably singing the same ditty for each object. 
Finally she sings: "Eat me up altogether," and the shark 
does so. 

At home Momovala asks the mother where the girl 
has gone, and learns of her tragic death. His answer is 
to ask the mother to take ofiF her grass skirt and to copu- 



late with him. The story describes his horizontal motions, 
which are so strong that his wife complains: Yakay, yakajy 
an expression of pain. But he only pushes deeper and 
deeper. She complains again to no purpose. She dies 
after the act. 

Next day people ask him in the garden what has 
happened. He says that his wife has been speared. 
"Where?" "In her vagina." Momovala then cuts off 
his penis and dies. 

This is perhaps the cruellest story of my collection. 

SEX IN folk-lore: legend and myth 

Passing from the purely narrative and entertaining 
fairy tales to more serious forms of folk-lore, we find, in 
Kwabulo, one of the lagoon villages, a local legend of a 
pronouncedly sexual character. The story is told in a 
manner half-way between the serious and the jocular. It 
is, indeed, a significant legend to the inhabitants, for it is 
embodied in a famous song, it is associated with the his- 
tory of their village and it is believed to be true, since 
certain natural features in the locality witness to its au- 
thenticity. Also it contains elements of the tragic, espe- 
cially in the self-castration of the hero and in his lyric 
yearning for his distant home. The central theme is 
ribald, however 5 and when telling it or referring to it, as 
they often do, the natives are by no means solemn, but 
delight to exaggerate and multiply unseemly similes 
about the crux of the tale, which is the long penis of the 



hero, the legendary headman of Kwabulo. I shall quote 
this story, keeping as closely as possible to the native style 
of narrative. 

The Legend of Inuvayla^u 

In the village of Kwabulo there lived Inuvayla'u the 
head of his clan, the Lukuba clan; the head of his vil- 
lage. He copulated with the wives of his younger 
brothers, of his maternal nephews. 

When the men went out fishing, he would stand out- 
side a house, and make a hole in the thatch 3 he then 
thrust his penis through the thatch and fornicated. His 
penis was very long; his penis was like a long snake. 
He would go into the garden when the women made 
koumwala (clearing the ground from debris prepara- 
tory to planting); or when they fwakova (weeded the 
ground). He would stand right away behind the fence, 
he stood in the uncut bush and his penis wriggled on the 
ground like a snake. The penis crept along all the way. 
The penis would approach a woman from behind as she 
was bending down to her task. It would strike her hard 
till she fell, and on all fours she would be fornicated with 
as the penis entered the vulva. 

Or when women went to bathe in the lagoon the penis 
would go under the water like an eel and enter the vulva. 
Or when they went to collect shells, as women do on the 
western shore (pi. 80), wading and feeling for them with 
the toes in the mud of the lagoon, Inuvayla'u would for- 
nicate with tfiem. When the women went to the water- 
hole, he would smash their coco-nut shell bottles and 



fornicate with them. The men were then very angry for 
they had no water to drink. They would abuse the 
women. The women would be too ashamed to speak, 
for their bottles had been broken. One day the men 
ordered, telling their wives: 

"Cook fishj cook taytUy make pudding of taro, so that 
our revered old man eats his fill." "No," answered the 
women, "we shall not do it 5 this man does wrong by usj. 
when you go to fish, and we remain in the village, when 
we work in the garden, by the water-hole, in the lagoon, 
he does violence to us." 

Then the men watched him. They said they were 
going to fish. They hid in the weyka (the thick scrub 
surrounding the village), they saw: Inuvayla'u stood out- 
side a hut, he made a hole in the thatch j his penis sneaked 
on the ground, it crept through the hole, it came in: he 
wronged the wife of his younger brother. The men went 
to the garden . . . (here the various conditions under 
which the hero plays his foul pranks on the women are 
again, enumerated, in almost exactly the same words as 

When his younger brothers, his maternal nephews, saw 
this, they grew very angry. Next morning they ducked 
him 5 they ducked him in the head pool of the tidal creek, 
which comes up to the village of Kwabulo (pi. 81). 

He came out of the water. He returned to his house, 
his mind was full of shame and of sorrow. He spoke to 
his mother Lidoya: "Bake some taytu and fish. Bake it 
in the ground. Pack all our belongings and the food in 



your big basket j lift it and put it on your head 5 we shall 
go, we shall leave this place." 

When all was ready, he came out of his house, which 
stood on the haku (central place of the village). He 
wailed aloud, facing the haku. He took his kema (axe), 
he cut at his penis. First he wailed and wailed over it, 
holding it in his hands. Then he cut off the point of his 
penis 3 it came off on the haku in front of his house j it 
was turned into stone. The stone is still there, on the 
haku of Kwabulo in front of the headman's house. He 
cried and wailed and went on. He stood outside the outer 
ring of houses, he looked back, he took his penis and wept 
over it. He struck again with his axe. The second bit 
fell off and was turned into stone. It can be seen still 
outside the village in Kwabulo. He cried and wailed and 
went on. Half-way between the village and the tidal 
pool of the creek he stopped. He looked back towards 
the houses. He took his penis into the palms of his hands, 
he wept over it and cut off another bit. It turned into 
stone, and can be seen there not far from Kwabulo. He 
came to the canoes j he looked back towards the village, 
he wept over his genitals. He took the axe and cut off 
the remaining stump of his penis. It was turned into 
stone, and it lies now near where the Kwabulo men moor 
their canoes. He entered his canoe and punted along. 
Half-way down the creek he wept once more. He gripped 
his axe and cut off his testicles. Large white coral boul- 
ders {yatu) lie in the creek. They are the token: they 
show where Inuvayla'u cut off his testicles. 

Inuvayla'u and Lidoya, his mother, went to Kavataria 



(to the north of Kwabulo, a village, from which over- 
seas expeditions are made south). He stole a large waga 
(canoe), a mwasawa (sea-going canoe). But the owner 
caught him and chased them away. They went to Ba'u 
(a village further north). He took a sea-going canoe; 
he told his mother Lidoya: "Put in your basket, we shall 
sail." They sailed, they came to I'uwaygili (a village on 
Kayleula). He told his mother . . . (here the same 
words as above are repeated; then they sail again, arrive 
at another village and again he asks her to put in her 
basket; and so on, through a monotonous enumeration of 
the villages along the lagoon and through the Amphlett 
Islands down to the koya^ the high mountains on the 
D'Entrecasteaux Archipelago). Inuvayla'u arrived in the 
koya. There he settled, there he lived, and with him his 
mother, who helped him to make gardens and cooked his 
food for him. He went out to fish with a flying kite, and 
with the deep sea net which has to be sunk far under the 
water. His mother made gardens on the mountain slope 
and she made cooking pots for him. 

One day he went high up the mountain slope. The 
day was clear. Far away among the budibudi (the small 
clouds that gather round the horizon in the monsoon sea- 
son), he saw the large flat island of Kiriwina, he saw the 
wide lagoon. On its water he saw a canoe, a canoe of 
Kwabulo, his native village.^ His inside grew soft 

1 For the strange and impressive contrast between the green waters and 
■white chalk of the Trobriands and the brown volcanic rock, high moun- 
tains and deep blue sea of the koya, compare Argonauts of the JVestern 
Pacific, passim. The reader will also find there accounts of the emo- 
tional attitude of the natives towards the landscape and further expres- 
sions of it in folk-lore. 



(inokapisi lofo^ula). He wanted to see his village, he 
wanted to punt among the mangroves of Kwabulo. 

They sailed. On the sea they met a boat from Kitava. 
He tells his mother: "Beg them for sayaku (aromatic 
black paint) j beg them for muUpwafwa (ornaments of 
shell)." The mother offered herself to the Kitava men. 
They copulated with her on their canoe 5 they gave her 
^om^ sayaku and a few shell ornaments. He had some 
red paint and some red shell ornament. 

On the landing-place at the head of the creek he 
adorned himself. He went to the village. In his fes- 
tival adornment he stood on the haku (central place), he 
sang the song which he had composed in the koya (south- 
ern mountains). He taught the song to the villagers, to 
his younger brothers, and maternal nephews. He gave 
them the song and the dance. For all time this has re- 
mained the dance and song of the people of Kwabulo. 
It is danced with the kaydehu (dancing shield) (pi. 82). 
The men of Bwaytalu and of Suviyagila have purchased 
it and they dance it also. Inuvayla'u lived in his village 
till he died. This is the end of the story. 

I obtained a few variants of this myth by hearing it 
told in several villages, and also some comments which 
may be added. The act of expiatory self-castration ia 
sometimes made to take place on Inuvayla'u's return 
home. This, however, does not tally with the sequence 
of natural relics. All the stones described in the myth 
still exist, though the similarity to their anatomical pro- 
totypes has worn away with time, while their size must 
have enormously increased. I have seen the relics several 



times, but unfortunately I was always prevented by 
weather or the time of day or high tide from taking a 
photograph of the stones. Making the necessary allow- 
ances for imagination and latitude in exegesis, there can 
be no doubt that the testicles are in the creek — large, 
round boulders just awash at low tide 3 while the glans 
femSy a pointed helmet-shaped piece of white coral, is in 
the central place of the village. This disposition confirms 
the version given in the text. 

The etymology of the hero's name indicates his fail- 
ing j the inu is unquestionably the feminine particle tna^ 
woman, while the verb vayla^u means actually to rob or 
steal; so that his name can be translated "the thief of 
woman." To those who believe in the existence of an 
old-time gerontocracy in Melanesia this myth will be of 
special interest j for in it we have the old (male) "matri- 
arch" trespassing on the rights of the younger men of his 
clan and, by means of his enormous organ (the symbol 
of his greater generative power, a psycho-analyst would 
say), claiming all the women of the community. Some 
parts of the story show indisputable signs of greater an- 
tiquity, whereas others have obviously been modernized. 
The simple crudity of the first part and its association with 
natural features has all the interesting sociological signifi- 
cance of the genuine myth, gradually degenerated into 
mere legend. The second part, on the contrary, with the 
song which will be quoted presently, is set in modern 
and realistic conditions, and its lyrical narrative character 
stamps it as a tale of more recent origin. 

It is characteristic also that, in the first part of the 



legend, the women are described as especially open to 
attack during their specific privileged occupations, when 
normally a taboo protects them and not only should a 
man never make love to them but he should not even ap- 
proach them (see chapter ii, male and female provinces 
in tribal life). It must be remembered that, while 
engaged in communal weeding, women are entitled in 
certain districts to attack any man who approaches them 
(ch. ix, sec. 8). This is certainly an interesting cor- 
relation and might, to an anthropologist endowed with 
some imagination and a faculty for hypothetical con- 
struction, serve as a proof of the antiquity of the myth 
and furnish a theory as to the custom of yausa. By 
outraging the women when engaged in such occupations 
as weeding and filling the water-bottles, Inuvayla'u adds 
insult to injury, and in the legend we see the women 
more ashamed for the manifest insult to female preroga- 
tives in the broken water-bottles than for their abused 
chastity. Superficially this breaking of the bottles might 
appear merely an unpleasant sadistic trait in the otherwise 
amiable character of Inuvayla'u. In reality, however, all 
such details are sociologically very significant. 

Another slight variant of the legend declares that 
Inuvayla'u was not allowed to return to his village, but 
was chased away immediately on his appearance. I prefer 
to discard this tragic version, partly because Anglo-Saxons 
do not like sad endings in fiction, partly because it does 
not harmonize well with the amiable and little vindictive 
character of the Trobrianders. 

The song which is ascribed to the mutilated hero of 



Kwabulo is but loosely connected with the story of the 
myth. The first stanza alludes to his trespasses and their 
consequences, and the expiatory resolution to go away. 
The coral outcrop or coral ridge mentioned in the first 
stanza and the marshy ground through which the hero is 
made to wander, are poetical images of that part of the 
legend in which the wanderings of the hero and his 
mother are described. 

The second and third stanza still follow the myth. 
The part of the mother, the sorrow of the son, and the 
first stages of the journey are common to both song and 
legend. But the song, neglecting completely the coarser 
and perhaps more archaic elements of the myth, does not 
mention castration. There is only the sorrow for the vil- 
lage left behind and the house abandoned. 

To indulge in tentative speculation for another mo- 
ment: may not the first and second parts of the myth be 
different stories altogether — ^the first part, a primitive 
myth with several interesting sociological hints and impli- 
cations 5 the second part and the song, a tale of a real or 
imaginary man, who, too amorous to be tolerated in the 
community, was banished from it, and, later, offered in 
expiation his song and his repentance? In the course of 
time the two were amalgamated in the legend, but not in 
the song. 

From the fourth stanza on, the song turns on the mo- 
tives of decoration, of dancing, of personal renown, and 
of self-glorification 5 of women admiring the singer's 
ornaments, of his wandering through the villages and his 
tecurring nostalgia. In all this the song is typical of its 



kind in the Trobriands. I am giving only the first six 
stanzas because I was unable to translate the remaining 
ones as fully as these. 

The Song of Inuvayla'u 

One day they ducked Inuvayla'u. 

The news of the fornication spread: 

He was dipped, he went under, he came out of the water. 

He turned and went to the sea — 

Through the raybiuag ^ and dumia he went to the sea. 


"Our mother Lidoya, get together the food, 
I turn my eyes to Dugubakiki.^ 

My tears flow at the thought of the b'waulo ^ of my village. 
My tears flow at the thought of Kwabulo, of the sweet air of Kwabulo. 


"O mother Lidoya, put your basket on your head." 
She goes carefully, she stumbles along the creek. 
She has left Kwabulo — the house is closed up. 
Inuvayla'u will not fornicate any more. 
Thy house is locked up — there is no more Inuvayla'u's house. 


"It Is put up — the mast at the mouth of the creek. 
I seek for my song — I am taking the road — I — Inuvayla'u. 
My road is Gulagola which leads to Tuma, 
And afterwards the Digidagala road which leads through Teyyava.* 

"Women of Kulumata, dance your dance! 
Prepare for a round dance with the tubuyavi^ on your faces! 
A tileica'i ^ for you — go then to my village, 
Go to Oysayase — to Oburaku!" '^ 

'"■ Raybnvag — coral outcrop, coral ridge ; dumia — swamp marshes. 
2 The landing-place of Kwabulo on the lagoon. 
^B'waulo — cloud of smoke, surrounding a village. 
* Both roads lead to the north-west district, 
s Pattern of facial decoration. 

6 Flattery-bond (cf. ch. xi, sec. 3). 

7 Both southern villages. 




"It is the time for the journey, the journey to Kiriwila.i 
The children tried to retain me. 
I shall go my road and come to Yalumugwa.2 
My dala ^ — the men ; my love — the women. 
They admire my paya.^ 

When I come to Okaykoda, my friends will greet me. 
My mind is sad. 

I am a Luba man, my fish is kaysipu. 
I have fallen on evil days." 

The Story of Kaytalugi 

Besides legends of events in a distant epoch, the natives 
tell tales of far-away places. At almost every point of 
the compass, if we were to believe the natives, some re- 
markable country is to be found if we travel far enough. 
One such place is of interest to us here because of the 
peculiarities of its inhabitants. 

"Far away, beyond the open sea — waluniy as the natives 
say — if you were to sail between Sim-sim and Muyuwa 
(i.e. in a northerly direction) you would come to a large 
island. It is called Kaytalugi. Its size is that of Boyowa 
(the name of the largest island in the Trobriand group). 
There are many villages. Only women live in them. 
They are all beautiful. They go about naked. They 
don't shave their pubic hair. It grows so long that it 
makes something like a doha (grass petticoat) in front of 

"These women are very bad, very fierce. This is be- 

1 North-western district. 

2 Village due north of Kwabulo. 

3 Sub-clan. 

^ Turtle-shell ear-rings. 



cause of their insatiable desire. When sailors are stranded 
on the beach, the women see the canoes from afar. They 
stand on the beach awaiting them. The beach is dark with 
their bodies, they stand so thick. The men arrive, the 
women run towards them. They throw themselves upon 
them at once. The pubic leaf is torn offj the women do 
violence to the men. It is like the yausa of the people in 
Okayaulo. The yausa has its season during the fwakova. 
When it is over, it is over. In Kaytalugi the women do 
it all the time. They never leave the men alone. There 
are many women there. When one has finished, another 
comes along. When they cannot have intercourse, they 
use the man's nose, his ears, his fingers, his toes — ^the man 

"Boys are born on the island. A boy never grows up. 
A small one is misused till he dies. The women abuse 
him. They use his penis, his fingers, his toes, his hands. 
He is very tired, he becomes sick and dies." 

Such is the account given by the natives of the island 
with the significant name. Kayta means "to copulate" j 
lugi is a sufiix denoting complete satiation. Thus Kay- 
talugi means "the fill of copulation." The natives be- 
lieve absolutely in the reality of this island and in the 
truth of every detail of their account. They tell circum- 
stantial stories of how sailors, driven towards the island 
by a strong wind, will land on desert reefs rather than 
risk making Kaytalugi. The distance to the island is 
about a night and a day's journey If you set sail in the 
morning and go ohomatu (due north), you will arrive 
next morning at the island. 



• There are also stories, believed to be true, about men 
who went there and succeeded in escaping. Thus, long 
ago, some men of Kaulagu were stranded on the island, 
driven off their course, according to some versions, dur- 
ing a >^/^/^ expedition. But another story has it that they 
went there on purpose. It is a custom in the Trobriands, 
when work comes to a dead-lock, for one of the men to 
utter a challenge. Some extraordinary exploit, some di- 
version or festivity is proposed by him, which he always 
has to lead, usually to organize, and sometimes to finance. 
Those who are challenged have to follow him. On one 
occasion the men of Kaulagu were engaged in planting 
yams,. The work was very hard, the yam supports re- 
fused to penetrate the stony soil. The headman cried 
out: Uri yakala Kaytalugi! "My challenge Kaytalugi! 
Let us go and: see the women." The others agreed. 
":The,y filled their canoe with food, firewood, water bot- 
tles, and green coco-nuts. They sailed. One night they 
slept- on :the seaj the second night they slept on the sea, 
the third; morning they made Kaytalugi. (This does not 
agree with the version of other informants, but perhaps 
the wind was not propitious! ) The women assembled on 
the beach: ^Wa! men are coming to our country!' They 
pulled the canoe to pieces, made a heap of the debris on 
the beach and. sat on it. They copulated, copulated, copu- 
lated j one month, month after month. The men were 
distributed, each man was married to one woman. They 

"They, made gardens for months and then they spoke 
to their wives. 'Are there many fish in your sea?' The 



women answered: ^Very plentiful.' ^Let us repair our 
canoe/ said the men. 'We shall get some fish, we shall 
eat it all of us.' They repaired the canoe, they put leaves 
and food in it, they put in water-bottles and they went 
away. They sailed three days and came back to Kaulagu, 
their native village. Their wives, who had mourned them 
and then remarried, were glad to see them, and came 
back to them again. They brought home, among other 
things, a new kind of banana called uslkela. You can see 
usikela growing in any village now, and eat them. They 
are very good" (pi. 83). And this is another proof that 
the story is true, and that Kaytalugi really exists. 

When I asked my informants why it was that the mefi 
of Kaulagu not only survived but escaped, I was told that 
they were very strong and that no man allowed sexual 
access to more than one woman. And just as the women 
were beginning to get too much for them, they made 
their escape. It is an interesting example of how every 
dogmatic version relaxes when elaborated into actual ex- 
amples, even though these are imaginary. 

Another story is told about a man of Kaybola, a vil- 
lage on the northern shore. Fishing for shark, he sailed 
far away. He came to Kaytalugi and was married by one 
woman. Feeling tired of her too persistent embraces, he 
made holes in all the local canoes, overhauled his own, 
and then suggested to his wife that the fish were very 
good that morning. He put to sea and set sail. The 
women of Kaytalugi pushed their canoes into the water to 
pursue him. But the canoes were swamped and the man 
returned safely to Kaybola. 



When I expressed my doubt as to the reality of this 
island, my informants suggested that it was all very well 
to be sceptical, but at the same time I must not try to go 
there on pain of never getting away again. They added 
that all gumanuma (white men) would like to go to Kay- 
talugi, but were afraid to do so. "Look, not one guma- 
numa has been to Kaytalugi!" — another irrefutable proof 
of its existence. 

So far we have been discussing the less sacred classes 
of folk-lore, and in these we have found the sexual mo- 
tive predominant. The less the religious or moral sig- 
nificance of a story — the less "real" it is to the native — 
the more frivolous it becomes j and the more frivolous it 
becomes, the more frequently, as in the fairy tales {kuk- 
wanebu)^ does it hinge on sex. But among legends, there 
is only one story which has sex as its principal motive, 
that of Inuvayla'u, and only one geographical account, 
that of Kaytalugi. The real myths (Jili^u) hardly ever 
have a sex motive j the myths of the origins of humanity 
and of the social order, for instance, are completely free 
of it. Again, in the cycle of stories about the hero Tudava, 
the only sexual reference occurs in the incident of the 
virgin birth, the mechanism of which is discreetly and 
chastely described: the hero's mother sleeps in a grotto, 
and the dripping water (Jitukzva) from the roof pierces 
her hymen, penetrates the vagina and thus "opens her" 
(ikaripwala) y making it possible for her to conceive (see 
ch. vii). 

No sexual elements are to be found in the several 
myths referring to the circular trade kula; or in those of 



the origin of fishing, of canoes, and of diving for the 
spondylus shell. Nor are any to be found in the myth of 
old age, death, and the annual visit of the spirits. 

Fire, according to legend, was brought forth by the 
same woman who produced the sun and the moon. The 
sun and moon wander away into the sky, but the mother 
keeps the fire, concealing it in her vagina. Whenever she 
needs it for cooking, she takes it out of its hiding place. 
But one day her younger brother discovers where she 
keeps it, steals it, and gives it to other people. This is 
the only genuine myth with a distinctly sexual element. 

Sex does not play a very important part in beliefs about 
supernatural beings. The only exception to this rule is 
the idea that some witches {yoyova) have intercourse with 
tauva^u (malignant, anthropomorphic beings who come 
from the southern islands and cause epidemics). Thus 
Ipwaygana, a woman of the Malasi clan who was mar- 
ried, against all the rules of exogamy, to Modulabu, the 
Malasi headman of Obweria, has a familiar tauva^Uy who 
visits her sexually and teaches her the arts of evil magic 
(she is to be seen on plates 77 and 78). Bomwaytani of 
Kaybola, the headman's wife and a notorious yoyova^ is 
also known to have a liaison with such a malignant, super- 
human instructor. 

But in the Trobriands such cases are sporadic. The 
belief in a witches' Sabbath which seems to obtain among 
the Southern Massim, is not found in the northern dis- 
trict. Informants from Normanby Island and from the 
islands of the east end told me that witches forgather at 
night and meet Ta'ukuripokapoka, a mythological per- 



sonality and apparently an expert in evil craft. Dances 
and orgies take place, in which the witches copulate with 
male beings and even with Ta'ukuripokapoka himself. 


In the Trobriands, as in almost every culture, one of 
the most important dogmatic systems or mythologies is 
that referring to a future life. 

The Trobrianders place the spirit world on a small 
island called Tuma lying to the north-west. There, un- 
seen by mortal eyes, undisturbed by the troubles of the 
world, the spirits lead an existence very much like that of 
ordinary Trobriand life, only much more pleasant.^ Let 
me quote a good description by one of my best informants, 
Tomwaya Lakwabulo (pi. 37), a famous seer, a spiritistic 
medium of no mean talent and imagination (also of no 
small cunning) and a frequent guest of the spirit world: 

"In Tuma we are all like chiefs 5 we are beautiful j we 
have rich gardens and no work to do — the women do it 
all 5 we have heaps of ornaments and we have many 
wives, all of them lovely." This summarizes the ideas 
and aspirations of the natives with regard to the spirit 
world — at least, as long as it remains a matter of remote 
speculation, for their attitude towards death and the de- 
sirability of an immediate move to Tuma remains unaf- 
fected by what they think of and hope for in the next 

iCf. "Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead in the Trobriand Islands," in 
Journ. of the R. Anthrop. Institute, 1916, for a preliminary account, based 
on ray first year's investigations in the Archipelago. 



world. On this point they are exactly like ourselves. 
Many a good Christian will grow enthusiastic about the 
joys and consolations of Heaven without showing, how- 
ever, any alacrity to repair thither. 

But in distant perspective and as a picture for dogmatic 
fantasy, the home of the spirits in Tuma remains a para- 
dise, and above all an erotic paradise. When a native 
talks about it, when he grows eloquent and relates the 
traditional stories, filled out with scraps of information 
gathered from recent spiritistic mediums, and elaborates 
his personal hopes and anticipations — all other aspects 
soon fade into the background and sex comes to the forej 
sex primarily, but set about with its appropriate trappings 
of personal vanity, display, luxury, good food, and beau- 
tiful surroundings. 

In their anticipations, Tuma is thronged with beautiful 
women, all ready to work hard by day and dance by night. 
The spirits enj oy a perpetual scented bacchanal of dancing 
and chanting on spacious village-places or on beaches of 
soft sand, amid a profusion of betel and of green coco- 
nut drinks, of aromatic leaves and magically potent deco- 
rations, of wealth and the insignia of honour. In Tuma 
each one becomes endowed with such beauty, dignity, and 
skill that he is the unique, the admired, the pampered 
protagonist of a never-ending feast. By some extraor- 
dinary sociological mechanism, all commoners become 
chiefs, while no chief believes that his relative rank is to 
be diminished or dimmed by the spirits of his inferiors. 

Let us follow the adventures of a spirit as he enters 
his future home. 



After certain preliminary formalities, the spirit comes 
face to face with Topileta, the guardian of the road to 
Tuma. This person, who belongs to the Lukuba clan, 
looks very much like a man and is essentially human in 
his appetites, tastes, and vanities. But he is of the con- 
sistency of a spirit, and his appearance is distinguished by 
very large ears which flop like the wings of a flying fox. 
He lives with a daughter or several daughters. 

The spirit is well advised to address Topileta in a 
friendly fashion and to ask the road, at the same time 
presenting the valuables which were given to him for the 
journey to Tuma by his surviving relatives. These valu- 
ables, be it noted, are not buried with the body nor de- 
stroyed, only pressed and rubbed against it before death 
and afterwards placed on the corpse for a time (see ch. 
vi, sec. 3). Their spiritual counterparts are supposed to 
be taken by the spirit of the deceased on his journey to 
the next world, and then, according to one version, offered 
to Topileta, or, according to another, used to decorate the 
spirit's own person on his entrance into Tuma. No doubt 
an intelligent spirit finds a way to do justice to both re- 

Topileta, however, is not satisfied with mere gifts. His 
lust is equal to his greed, so that if the spirit is a female 
he copulates with her, if a male he hands him over to 
his daughter for the same purpose. This accomplished, 
Topileta puts the stranger on his way, and the spirit pro- 

The spirits know that a newcomer is arriving and 
throng to greet him. Then a rite is performed which 



deeply affects his mind. The spirit arrives filled with sor- 
row. He yearns for those left behind, for his widow, 
his sweetheart, his children. He longs to be surrounded 
with his family, and to return to the bosom of his wife 
or of his earthly love. But in Tuma there is an aromatic 
herb called bubwayayta. This is made into a vana (bun- 
dle) and magic is spoken over it by a fair spirit-woman, 
immediately before a male spirit appears upon the island. 
As he approaches the group who stand awaiting him, the 
most passionate, and, no doubt, the loveliest of the spirit 
women runs towards him and waves the scented herb be- 
fore his face. The scent enters his nostrils, carrying with 
it the magic of bubwayayta. As with the first sip of the 
water of Lethe, so this scent makes him forget all that 
he has left on earth, and from that moment he thinks no 
more of his wife, yearns no more for his children, desires 
no more the embraces of earthly loves. His only wish 
now is to remain in Tuma and to embrace the beautiful 
though unsubstantial forms of spirit women. 

His passions will not remain long unsatisfied. Spirit 
women, unfleshly though they appear to us mortals, have 
fire and passion to a degree unknown on earth. They 
crowd round the man, they caress him, they pull him by 
force, they use violence on him. Erotically inspired by 
the bubwayayta spell, he yields and a scene is enacted, 
unseemly to those unused to the ways of a spirit, but ap- 
parently quite the thing in Paradise. The man submits 
to these advances and copulates with the hostess-spirit in 
the open, while the others look on, or, stimulated by the 
sight, do likewise. Such promiscuous sexual orgies, in 



which male and female mix indiscriminately, congregate, 
change partners and reunite again, are frequent among 
the spirits. So at least I was told by several eyewitnesses, 
not from the world of spirits, but from that of mediums. 

For I luckily had the privilege of discussing these mat- 
ters with a number of seers who had actually been in 
Tuma, dwelled among the spirits, and returned to tell the 
tale. Most prominent among my informants was Tom- 
waya Lakwabulo, whose name had been mentioned to me 
and his exploits recorded with a mixture of respect and 
cynicism, before I actually met and worked with him.^ 
I also had opportunities of speaking with Bwaylagesi, a 
woman medium, with Moniga'u, and with one or two 
other lesser mediums. The details of life in Tuma given 
so far are common property and form part of general 
folk-lore j and my eyewitnesses only confirmed these, 
though they were able to add colour and concrete vivid- 
ness to them. I shall now; proceed to more esoteric in- 

Tomwaya Lakwabulo was married on earth to a woman 
called Beyawa, who died about a year before I came to 
Oburaku. He has seen her since in Tuma, and, remark- 
ably enough, she has remained faithful to him, regards 
herself as his wife over there, and will have nothing to 
do with anyone else. This is Tomwaya Lakwabulo's own 

1 Cf. "Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead" {Journ. R. Anthr. Inst., 1916), 
published before my third expedition. During this expedition I lived for 
several months in Oburaku, saw Tomwaya Lakwabulo in trances and in 
his sober moods, and used him as a medium. I found that in spite of the 
unmasking of Tomwaya Lakwabulo, described in the article noted, he 
enjoyed an undiminished prestige in his own community and in the Tro- 
briands universally. In this respect also, the Trobrianders do not greatly 
differ from ourselves. 



version. He agrees, however, that in this respect the late 
Beyawa, or rather her spirit, is an unprecedented excep- 
tion to all other spirit women. For they all, married and 
unmarried alike, are sexually accessible to anybody — to 
him, Tomwaya Lakwabulo, in any case. They all, with 
the exception of Beyawa, make katuyausl and receive 
ulatile visits. 

It was long ago, when Beyawa was young and attrac- 
tive, that Tomwaya Lakwabulo paid his first visit to 
Tuma. He then made the acquaintance of one of the 
most beautiful spirit girls, Namyobe'i, a daughter of 
Guyona Vabusi, headman of Vabusi, a large village on 
the shore of Tuma. She fell in love with him 5 and, as 
she was so very beautiful and moreover performed bub- 
wayayta magic upon him, he succumbed to her charms 
and married her. Thus he became, so to speak, a biga- 
mist, or at least a spiritual bigamist, having his wife on 
earth in Oburaku and his spiritual wife in Vabusi. Since 
that time, he has regularly frequented the land of spirits 
during trances, when he neither eats nor drinks nor moves 
for weeks. (At least, in theory: I visited Tomwaya Lak- 
wabulo in one of these trances, and succeeded in insinu- 
ating a tin of bully beef and some lemon squash into him, 
and moved him to accept two sticks of tobacco.) These 
professional visits to Tuma, besides being agreeable on 
account of Namyobe'i, are profitable, for he carries rich 
presents to the spirits, entrusted to him by their surviving 
relatives. There is no reason to doubt that the spiritual 
part of the presents reaches the ghosts in Tuma. 

It is to the credit both of Tomwaya Lakwabulo and 



of the late Beyawa that she knew and approved of his 
spiritual partnership, and even allowed her own daughter 
to be called Namyobe'i after the spirit wife. Now both 
wives have met in Tuma, but they inhabit different vil- 
lages. This is in accordance with a general rule, for each 
earthly community has its spirit colony to which the de- 
ceased move after death. There are also a few villages 
sui generis, not recruited from this world and showing^ 
strange characteristics. One of them is inhabited by 
women who live in houses on piles as tall as coco-nut 
palms. No man is ever allowed to enter the village and 
no man has ever had intercourse with the women. They 
bring forth children, but exclusively of the female sex.. 
Such female puritans are, however, happily the exception 
in Tuma, where love, enjoyment, and lazy pleasure en- 
fold the happy spirits. 

To enjoy life and love it is necessary to be young. 
Even in Tuma, old age — ^that is, wrinkles, grey hair, and 
feebleness — creeps upon the spirits. But in Tuma there 
exists a remedy, once accessible to all mankind, but now 
lost to this world. 

For old age to the Trobrianders is not a natural state — 
it is an accident, a misadventure. Long ago, shortly after 
mankind had come upon earth from underground, human 
beings could rejuvenate at will by casting off the old with- 
ered skinj just as crabs, snakes, and lizards, and those 
creatures that creep and burrow underground, will every 
now and then throw off the old covering and start life 
with a new and perfect one. Humanity unfortunately 
lost this art — ^through the folly of an ancestress, according 



to legend — ^but in Tuma the happy spirits have retained 
it.^ When they find themselves old, they slough off the 
loose, wrinkled skin, and emerge with a smooth body, 
dark locks, sound teeth, and full of vigour. Thus life 
with them is an eternal recapitulation of youth with its 
accompaniment of love and pleasure. 

So their time passes in dancing, singing, and all that 
goes with these — festive dressing, decoration, scents of 
aromatic oils and herbs. Every evening, in the cool sea- 
son, when the persistent trade wind abates, or when the 
fresh sea breezes quicken the air during the sultry time 
of the monsoon, the spirits put on festive attire and re- 
pair to the baku of their village to dance, just as is done 
in the Trobriands. At times, departing from earthly 
usage, they will go to the beach and dance on firm cool 
sand beaten by breakers. 

Many songs are composed by the spirits and some of 
these reach the earth, brought thither by mediums. In 
common with most such productions, these songs are a 
glorification of the composer. "The glory of their hutia 
(flower wreath) they singj of their dancing 5 of their 
■nabwoda^u (ornamented basket) j of their facial paintings 
and decoration." It was quite clear that skill in garden- 
ing or carving, outstanding achievements in war or in the 
Mulay were no longer objects of ambition to the spirits. 
Instead we find dancing and personal beauty celebrated, 
and these mainly as a setting and a preliminary to sex 

^ For a fuller account see "Myths of Death and the Recurrent Cycle 
of Life," on pp. 80-106 of Myth in Primitive Psychalogy. 



I will quote one example of such a song, entitled 
Usiyawenuj it was composed by a ghost in Tuma, and 
brought to earth by Mitakayyo of Oburaku, a medium 
who was already permanently settled in Tuma when I 
came to the Trobriands. 

I shall sing the song of idle enjoyment — 

My mind boils over upon my lips — 

They range themselves round a circle on the baku, 

I shall join them on the baku — 

The conch-shell is blown — listen! 

Look! The flaming butia "wreath, 

The butia of my sweetheart. 


My father weeps, they start the mortuary dance for me. 
Come! Let us chew betel-nut, let us throw the bubiuayayta. 
Let us break the pod of the betel-pepper, 
The betel-nut — my mind becomes numb! 


My friend, standing on the beach — he is full of passion. 

He boils over, my friend on the northern shore of Tuma. 

The red-haired man dreams of me, 

He has an ornamental basket. 

His face shines like the moon in its fullness. 


The white clouds gather low over the skyline, 
I cry silently. 

On a hill in Tuma, I rock my baby to sleep, 

I shall go and look after my sister, 

I shall put a bagido'u round my head, 

I shall paint my mouth with crushed betel-nut, 

I shall adorn myself with armshells on the western shore, 

« « « « Jir 



A Trobriand song is always full of omissions and of 
allusions to events well known to the listeners, and can 
never be quite intelligible to a stranger. Even my native 
informants, however, were not able fully to interpret this 

After two introductory lines, the first stanza describes 
the preparations for a dance in Tuma. In the second 
stanza we have the sudden abandonment of earthly in- 
terests, brought about by bubwayayta. In the third, a 
woman sings of a man beloved by her. She is obviously 
still on earth, and her husband or sweetheart — ^the com- 
poser of the song apparently — has passed into Tuma. She 
looks to the north-west where monsoon clouds gather, and 
weeps for him (stanza iv). In the last of the translated 
stanzas she herself has entered Tuma and describes her 
attire which, as with all spirits, seems to have become her 
main concern. It is to her credit that she has not forgotten 
her baby, though how such a sentimental reminiscence fits 
into the frivolous atmosphere of Tuma none of my in- 
terpreters could explain. 



The sexual freedom which we find among the Trobriand 
Islanders must not be mis-called "immorality," and placed 
in a non-existent category. "Immorality," in the sense 
of an absence of all restraints, rules, and values, cannot 
exist in any culture, however debased or perverted it may 
be. "Immorality," on the other hand, in the sense of 
morals different from those which we pretend to practise, 
must be anticipated in every society other than our own 
or those which are under the influence of Christian and 
Western culture. 

As a matter of fact, the Trobrianders have as many 
rules of decency and decorum as they have liberties and 
indulgences. Among all the customs of sexual liberty 
so far described, there is not one warrant of licence which 
does not imply definite limits j not one concession to the 
sexual impulse but imposes new restrictions j not one re- 
laxation of the usual taboos but exacts compensation in one 
way or another. 

All Trobriand institutions have their negative as well 
as their positive side: they bestow privileges but they also 
imply renunciations. Thus, marriage presents many 
legal, economic, and personal advantages, but it also 
means the exclusion of extra-matrimonial intercourse, 
especially for the wife, and a number of restrictions in 
manners and conduct. The institution of the hukumatula 



(bachelors' house) has its taboos as well as its privileges. 
Even such customs as yausa, katuyausiy and ulatiley all of 
which are especially constituted for licence, are hedged 
round with conditions and limitations. 

The reader who, after the perusal of the previous chap- 
ters, still retains a sense of moral superiority over the 
Trobrianders, will have to be told in the following pages 
directly and explicitly that the Trobriander has just as 
clear-cut a feeling for modesty in dress and in behaviour 
as we have, and that he would be as shocked by us on 
certain occasions, as we are shocked by him on others. 
In the matter of excretory functions, for instance, he 
shows far more delicacy than most Europeans of the lower 
classes, and certain "sanitary" arrangements current in the 
south of France and other Mediterranean countries would 
horrify and disgust him. His tolerance is certainly great 
as regards the natural forms of sexual intercourse, but to 
compensate for this, he is free from many aberrations of 
the sexual impulse. "Unnatural vice," on which we need 
to impose heavy penalties, has no place in his life, except 
as a subject for contemptuous amusement. He is shocked 
when he sees or hears about Europeans dancing pressed 
against each other 5 or when he finds a white man jesting 
and unconstrained in his sister's company, or showing 
tenderness to his wife in public. In fact, his attitude to 
his moral rules is very much like our own, whether we 
call ourselves Christians or Agnostics: he believes in them 
firmly, regards their infringement with disapproval, and 
even keeps to them, not perfectly and not without effort, 
but with a reasonable amount of earnestness and goodwill. 



Many things which we regard as natural, proper, and 
moral are anathema to the Trobriander. And the onus 
frobandi would rest on anyone who maintained that the 
Trobriander's morality is wrong and ours is right, that 
his limitations and barriers are inadequate and artificial 
while ours are sufficient and real. In some respects his 
moral regulations are biologically sounder than our own, 
in some more refined and subtle, in some a more efficient 
safeguard for marriage and the family. In other matters 
again we might reasonably claim to be his moral superiors. 
The best way to approach sexual morality in an entirely 
different culture is to remember that the sexual impulse 
is never entirely free, neither can it ever be completely 
enslaved by social imperatives. The limits of freedom 
vary J but there is always a sphere within which it is deter- 
mined by biological and psychological motives only and 
also a sphere in which the control of custom and conven- 
tion is paramount. 

It was necessary to clear the ground before proceeding 
to the subject of this chapter, for there is no greater 
source of error in sociology than a false perspective in 
sexual morality 5 and it is an error especially hard to con- 
found, as it is based on ignorance which does not want to 
be enlightened and on intolerance which fears the wider 
charity of understanding. 



As we know, the natives not only have definite laws, 
stringent in their application and enforced by punish- 



mentSj but also a sense of right and wrong and canons of 
correct behaviour not devoid of delicacy and refinement. 

The forms and customs which are associated with the 
conduct of such elementary physiological functions as eat- 
ing and drinking, defecation and micturition are a good 
illustration of this, and are also illuminating and relevant 
to our immediate subject, sexual manners. 

Eating is not regarded as indispensable to life, nor is 
the value of food as a utility recognized and formulated 
by the natives. In fact, they have no idea that there is 
such a thing as physiological need for alimentation, or 
that the body is built up on food. According to them, 
one eats because one has appetite, because one is hungry 
or greedy. The act of eating is very pleasant, and it is 
a suitable expression of a joyful mood. Large accumula- 
tions of food (pi. 84), their formal distribution (sagali) 
and, at times, their immediate, though not public, con- 
sumption form the core of all native festivities and cere- 
monies. "We shall be glad, we shall eat till we vomit," 
say the natives, in anticipation of some tribal ceremony 
or festival. To give food is a, virtuous act. The provider 
of food, the organizer of many big sagali (distributions) 
is a great man and a good man. Food is displayed in all 
forms and on all occasions, and they show great interest 
in new crops, in a rich yield of garden produce, and in a 
large catch of fish (see pi. 85). 

Yet meals are never taken in public, and eating is alto- 
gether regarded as a rather dangerous and delicate act. 
Not only will people never eat in a strange village, but 
even within the same community the custom of eating 
in common is limited. After a big distribution, the people 



retire to their own fireplaces with their portion, each group 
turning its back on the rest. There is no actual con- 
viviality on a large scale. Even when the big communal 
cooldng of taro takes place, small groups of related 
people assemble round the pot which has been allotted to 
them, and which they have carried away to a secluded 
spot. There they eat rapidly, no one else witnessing the 
performance (pi. 86). 

In fact, eating is rather a means of social division and 
discrimination than a way of bringing people together. 
To begin with, distinctions of rank are marked by food 
taboos. People of the highest rank are practically con- 
strained to eat within their own circle, and those of a lower 
status have to forgo part of their normal diet if they 
eat in the presence of their superiors, in order not to 
shock them. Table manners are thus a household affair 
and are not very polished. Food is eaten with the fingers j 
and smacking of lips, noisy expressions of enjoyment and 
belching are not considered incorrect. To be intently con- 
centrated on one's food and to eat voraciously is, however, 
thought to be ugly. 

Plenty in the matter of food is good and honourable, 
scarcity is shameful and bad. But opulence in food is a 
matter of privilege, to be enjoyed in safety only by chiefs 
and people of higher rank. It is distinctly dangerous for 
a commoner to be too good a gardener, to have too big, 
too richly decorated and too well-filled yam houses. The 
chief distributes food in the form of gifts, he receives it 
in the form of tribute. He alone should have decorated 
yam houses j he must surpass everybody in the display 



of food during the milamala (the return of the spirits), 
at ceremonial distributions and during the harvest. 

Psychologically interesting is the magic called vila- 
fi^alia. It is directed against the elementary impulse to 
€at and takes away appetite, so that the food remains in 
the yam houses until it rots. Malta (plenty) and molu 
(scarcity or hunger) are very important categories in 
native life.^ Molu is bad and shameful. It is a terrible 
insult to tell a man he is hungry 3 to say to him: gala kam 
("no food thine" — "thou hast no food") or togalagala 
yoku ("thou art a man of no substance"). The use of 
scarcity and hunger as means of insult is an illustration 
of the ways in which shortcomings can be brought home 
to the natives. A man will endure real hunger rather than 
expose himself to the sarcastic question: "Is there no food 
in thy village?" 

To sum up : the act of eating is regarded by the natives 
as an expression of a powerful impulse, of a strong pas- 
sion. As such it is an important part of the ordinary 
routine of lifej the evening meal is as indispensable a 
domestic event as rest after work and conversation with 
the neighbours. It also occupies an important place in 
every festival and within the realms of the sacred. Food 
is a means of emphasizing social distinctions, whether of 
rank or in tribal grouping, and thus indirectly provides a 
tond of social union. What happens in the alimentary 
duct after the food has been swallowed is not a matter 
of concern to the natives 5 nor does metabolism influence 

1 Cf. my article, "The Lunar and Seasonal Calendar in the Frobri- 
ands," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1927. 



cultural life again until the alimentary process is com- 
plete, when waste matters claim the native's attention and 
demand customs and cultural arrangements for the dis- 
guise of excretory processes. For, as we pointed out when 
describing the care of the body (see ch. x, sec. 4), the 
natives have a strong sesthetic feeling against uncleanli- 
ness, whether in their own persons or in their surround- 
ings. Unpleasant smells and unclean matters disgust 
them, especially if they are of an excretory nature. 

For this reason the greatest hardship of mourning lies, 
not in the covering of the body with soot or charcoal, but 
in the taboo on ablutions. Excretion within the house is 
quoted as a very heavy burden on those confined by 
mourning or disease and on their relatives who have to 
perform the necessary services. The duty of receiving 
the excreta of small children in receptacles, with the lia- 
bility of becoming soiled and the necessity of carrying 
the dirty matter into the bush, is often mentioned as one 
of the hardships which give to parents, and especially to 
the father, a permanent claim on the gratitude of the 
child. It is also quoted as a reason why the child should 
look after the parents later on, and incidentally repay 
these particular services in kind should they fall ill. 

The handling of the corpse and the operations upon 
it incidental to certain mortuary practices j the ritual swal- 
lowing of putrid matter which is a duty of some of the 
survivors, are obligations which involve heroic devotion 
on the part of the performers. 

Good care is taken to prevent the accumulation of dirt 
in the village, above all to prevent any excretorv matter 



from being deposited near the settlement. Villages are 
always carefully swept, and all refuse placed on the out- 
skirts in large heaps called wawa. Especially offensive 
matters, such as decomposing fish, are usually covered 
with earth. 

The sanitary arrangements consist of two reserves in 
the bush at some distance from the village, the one fre- 
quented by men and the other by women. These reserves 
are scrupulously adhered to, and the surroundings of a 
village in the Trobriands, as well as the roads, would 
compare favourably with those in most European coun- 
tries, especially the Latin ones. 

Natives will never go to these reserves together, nor 
will they ever defecate near one another. At sea, a man 
will enter the water and ease himself below the surface, 
supported by others in the canoe 5 for defecation both sexes 
squat 5 for micturition the women squat and men remain 

Certain villages, squeezed in between mangrove swamp 
and lagoon, have little dry land outside the settlement, 
and find it hard to satisfy the demands of sanitation 
(pi. 87). In such a village each sex repairs to one side 
of the beach and tries to choose a spot which will be cov- 
ered by the tide. But even so they have an evil reputa- 
tion, and often, in passing through one, I have seen my 
native companions close their nostrils and spit freely, and 
have heard their outspoken comments upon its dirt. And 
yet, in these fishing villages, even the refuse of fish is 
carefully disposed of, and after preparing fish for eating 



the people always wash their hands carefully and anoint 
themselves with coco-nut oil. 

After excretion the parts are carefully cleansed with 
soft leaves, called in this context foyewesi (po, root of 
"excretion" 5 yewesiy leaves). Children are taught to 
observe strict cleanliness in this respect, and a careless 
child is not infrequently shamed by its parents or 
elders: — 

Mayna foful gala kuvaysi 

Odour of excrement! Not thou wipest 

kosiyam mayna kasukwanise! 

thy remnant of excrement, odour we (excl.) smell! 

Social distinctions influence considerably the way in 
which natives are allowed to speak about the subject. The 
ordinary name for excrement (popu)^ or the verb to 
defecate (popu or fwaya) are never used in the presence 
of a guya^u (chief, man of high rank). A special polite 
word, solu or sola (lit.: "descend"), is substituted, or else 
such euphemisms as to "go down" {busi)j "go and re- 
turn" {bala haka^ita), A man would never excuse him- 
self from a chief's presence by saying, "I have to go and 
defecate" {bala bafofu)^ he would say instead: bala 
basoluy or bala babusiy "I shall go down"j or bala 
baka^itay "I shall go and return." 

The word "excrement" is also used in the typical form 
of bad language, "eat thy dirt" {kumkwam fofu or 
kukome kam fofu). This expression, if used good- 
humouredly, might be taken as a joke and condoned, but 
it lies on the border-line between chaflF and insult, and 



must never be said angrily. Above all, it must never be 
said in the presence of a chief, and to use it to him as an 
insult is an unpardonable offence. 

The following incident, which took place during the 
last war between To'uluwa, high chief of Omarakana, 
and his traditional foe, the headman of Kabwaku, is a 
good illustration of the native attitude towards this insult 
when directed against a chief. During a lull in the fight- 
ing, when the two forces were facing each other, a 
Kabwaku man, Si'ulobubu, climbed a tree and addressed 
To'uluwa in a loud voice: ^^Kukome kam fofUy To^u^ 
luwa?^ Here was the insult delivered with every aggra- 
vating circumstance. It was addressed to a chief, it was 
said aloud and in public, and the personal name was 
added, the form in which the insult is deadliest. After 
the war, when peace was concluded and all other enmities 
forgotten, Si'ulobubu was openly speared in broad day- 
light by a few men sent by To'uluwa for that purpose. 
The victim's family and clansmen did not even raise a 
protest, still less did they ask for "blood money," or 
start a lugwa (vendetta). Everybody knew that the man 
had deserved this punishment and that his death was a 
just and adequate mapda (payment, retribution) for his 
crime. It is even an insult to make this remark to a 
chief's pig in his hearing, though it is permitted so to 
address his dog.^ 

The dissociation between sex and excretion, or the 
excretory processes, is very pronounced in native sentiment 

1 Cf. the myth of the pig and the dog below in sec 5, and in Myth in 
Primitive Psychology, 1926, where its historical importance is discussed. 



and idea. As we know, scrupulous cleanliness is an 
essential in the ideal of personal attraction. Sodomy is 
repugnant to natives, and their attitude to it is summed 
up in the phrase: matauna ikaye fofu ("this man copu- 
lates excrement"). Fseces have no place in magic, custom, 
or ritual 5 nor do they even play any part in sorcery. 

In my own experience I have always found the natives 
very clean and never received any unpleasant olfactory 
impression in my various social contacts with them. Nor, 
by the consensus of opinion among white residents, is their 
bodily odour unpleasant to the European. 

Intestinal gases are never released in the presence of 
other people. Such an act is considered very shameful, 
and would dishonour and mortify anyone guilty of it. 
Even in a crowd where it can be committed anonymously, 
such a breach of etiquette never happens in Melanesia, so 
that a native crowd is considerably more pleasant in this 
respect than a gathering of European peasants.^ If such 
a mishap befalls a man by accident, he feels the disgrace 
deeply and his reputation suffers. Also it will be re- 
membered how quickly an explosive escape of intestinal 
gas was visited upon the unfortunate louse in one of the 
fireside stories told in the last chapter. 

Scents are as much appreciated and sought after as 
bad smells are abhorred and avoided. We have seen 
what an important part is played in native toilet by the 
variously and exquisitely scented flowers of the Islands: 
the long white petals of the pandanus, the hutia and a 

1 For some interesting sociology on this subject as among European 
peasants, cf. Zola's La Terre. 



long list of aromatic herbs, in which the mint {sulufn- 
woyd) takes the leadj and we have also seen the use made 
of oil perfumed with sandal wood. Pleasant smells are 
closely associated with magical influence 5 and as we know 
already many charms in the magic of kula^ of love, of 
beauty, and of success are made over mint, over the hutia 
flower, and over several aromatic herbs used as vana (tuft 
placed in the armlet). Personal cleanliness is an essen- 
tial in all these forms of magic, and charming the 
kaykakaya (washing leaves) is an important part of the 

Indeed, the sense of smell is the most important factor 
in the laying of spells on people j magic, in order to 
achieve its greatest potency, must enter through the nose. 
Love charms are borne into the victim on the scent of 
some spellbound aromatic substance. In the second and 
very dangerous stage of sorcery, the object or compound 
over which black magic has been done is burned, and the 
smoke enters through the nostrils into the body against 
which it is directed and causes disease {silamt). For this 
reason, houses are never built on piles in the Trobriands, 
as it would greatly facilitate this stage in the sorcerer's 
work. Thus the idea of magical infection through the 
nose exercises a considerable influence on the culture of 
the natives. 

The malignant witches {mulukwausi) are believed to 
emit a smell reminiscent of excrement. This smell is 
much feared, especially by people who are sailing, for 

1 Cf. chs. viii and xi of this book, and chs. xiii and xvii of Argonauts 
of the Western Pacific. 



witches are very dangerous on water. In general the 
smell of ordure and decomposing matter is thought to be 
noxious tcr human health. The natives believe that a 
special substance emanates from the corpse of a dead 
person. This, though invisible to the ordinary eye, can 
be seen by sorcerers, to whom it appears somewhat like 
the cloud of smoke {hwaulo) which hangs over a village. 
This emanation, which is also called hwauloy is especially 
dangerous to the maternal kinsmen of the deceased, and 
because of it they must not approach the corpse, nor per- 
form any of the mortuary duties (see ch. vi, sec. 2). 

A few words will suffice to recapitulate here what we 
already know (see ch. x, sec. 4) about the conventions, 
manners, and morals of dress. The various functions of 
attire in enhancing personal beauty, in marking social dis- 
tinctions, in expressing the character of the occasion on 
which they are worn do not concern us here, but a word 
must be added about dress in its relation to modesty. 
Modesty in the Trobriands requires only that the genitals 
and a small part of the adjacent areas should be covered, 
but the native has absolutely the same moral and psy- 
chological attitude towards any infringement of these 
demands as we have. It is bad, and shameful, and ludi- 
crous in a degrading sense not to conceal, carefully and 
properly, those parts of the human body which should 
be covered by dress. Moreover there is a certain co- 
quettish emphasis in the care and elegance with which 
women manipulate their fibre skirts whenever they fear 
that dress may fail in its duty, through wind or rapid 



The broad bleached leaf of the pandanus or areca palm 
which covers the male genitals is always put in place so 
precisely and securely that no instance of disarrangement 
has occurred within my knowledge. No person must ever 
touch it when it is in position. The word for it, yavigUy 
used with the pronoun of nearest possession as if it were 
a part of the body, is also an improper word which must 
not be uttered save in intimacy. It is interesting, how- 
ever, that when it is necessary for practical reasons for 
men to take off the pubic leaf, as during the fishing or 
diving activities, this is done without either false shame or 
the slightest symptom of improper interest. The natives 
convey clearly by behaviour and comment that nakedness 
is not shameful when it is necessary, but becomes so when 
due to carelessness or lewdness (see ch. iii, sec. i, and 
sees. 3 and 4 of this chap.). Though the taboos sur- 
rounding female dress and its name are less stringent, it 
is just as carefully used as an instrument of modesty. 

I have assembled these facts from certain aspects of 
intimate life, from the physiology of eating and excre- 
tion and from the treatment of anatomical aspects of the 
body, to illustrate native manners j and to demonstrate 
that, in spite of certain things which shock us profoundly, 
the natives show a delicacy and restraint in others which 
not only is elaborate and well defined, but is expressive 
of real moral attitudes: a substantial consideration for the 
feelings of others and certain sound biological principles. 
We may be shocked at a savage who tears his meat with 
his fingers, smacks his lips, grunts and belches in the 
enjoyment of his foodj while the custom of eating each 



other's lice is to us decidedly unappetizing. But the 
native is equally disgusted when the European gorges 
himself on stinking cheese, or consumes undefined abomi- 
nations from tins j or when he unashamedly eats stingaree, 
wild pig or any other matters permitted only to people 
of the lowest rank. He is also shocked at the white 
man's habit of making himself temporarily imbecile or 
violent with gin and whisky. If, to an uneducated white 
man, Melanesian dress may appear inadequate, the 
strange custom prevalent among white women of reducing 
instead of adding to their dress for festive occasions is 
upsetting and indecorous to the native who meets it on 
his travels to European settlements. 

Even now, when a more liberal and instructed policy 
directs the relations between native and European, it is 
well to remember these things 5 and to keep in mind that 
wisdom and good manners alike demand that we respect 
those feelings in other people which are dictated by their 
own cultural standards. 


Before proceeding to a detailed consideration of the 
subject of this section, we will assemble and briefly re- 
state the relevant facts already in our possession, so that 
they may be presented to the reader in their proper per- 
spective. For the inter-relation of facts and the pro- 
portions they assume in native life are as important as, 
if not more so than, the isolated facts themselves, if we 



are to arrive at right conclusions and have a true picture 
of Trobriand communal life. 

And to see the facts from the native point of view, 
that is, in their true relation to tribal life, we must again 
remind ourselves that sex as such is not tabooed. That 
is to say, the sexual act, provided that it is carried out in 
private and within certain sociological limits, is not re- 
garded as reprehensible, even when it is not sanctioned by 
the bond of marriage. The barriers within which sexual 
freedom obtains, the methods by which these barriers are 
upheld and the penalties which fall upon the transgressor, 
can be classified broadly into two groups: the general 
taboos, which brand certain forms of sexual activity as 
objectionable, indecent, or contemptible 5 and the socio- 
logical restrictions which debar certain individuals and 
groups from sexual access. 


I. Byways and aberrations of the sexual Imfulse. — 
Homosexual intercourse, bestiality, exhibitionism, oral 
and anal eroticism — to use psycho-analytic terminology — 
are, as we already know, regarded by the natives as inade- 
quate and contemptible substitutes for the proper exer- 
cise of the sexual impulse. The natives achieve an almost 
complete freedom from perversion by means of what 
might be called psychological rather than social sanctions. 
Sexual aberrations are ridiculed, they are a subject for 
invective and comic anecdote, and thus treated, they are 
not only branded as improper but are effectively made 



2. Publicity and lack of decorum in sexual matters, — 
Public display of the sexual act or of erotic approaches 
is almost completely absent from tribal life. Lack of 
care in avoiding publicity, curiosity and any attempt to spy 
on other people's love-making are regarded as unseemly 
and contemptible. There are few occasions in tribal life 
when the sexual act could be carried on in public, nor 
does the voyeur figure even in their pornographic folk- 
lore. The only exception from this rule are the erotic 
competitive festivals {kayasa)^ described in chapter ix, 
section 5. From the taboo of publicity only the souls of 
the blessed in Tuma are permanently released, while in 
the legendary accounts of female assaults on men (in the 
custom of yausay and on the Island of Kaytalugi), the 
openness with which copulation takes place is regarded as 
an additional outrage on the passive victims. Thus sexual 
intercourse, to be in accordance with tribal sanctions, must 
be carried on within the strictest limits of privacy and 

3. Sexual excess, — ^The exhibition of sexual greed, or 
an unabashed forwardness in courting the favour of the 
other sex, is regarded as bad and despicable in either man 
or woman, but more especially in woman. This moral 
attitude should be strictly distinguished from the censure 
incurred by those people who are too successful in love, 
and who therefore arouse anger and jealousy. 

4. hack of taste. — ^We have learned (ch. x, sec. 2) 
the forms of ugliness and repulsiveness which are re- 
garded as deterrent to erotic interest and that the natives 
will even go so far as to affirm that no one could or 



would have intercourse with a person so afflicted. Behind 
this mere statement of fact there is a definite censure of 
a mixed moral and aesthetic character which is based on a 
real and lively sentiment, even though this fails occa- 
sionally in practice. It is bad, unbecoming, and worthy of 
contempt to have anything to do with a human being 
whose body arouses repugnance. This class of taboo has 
already been dealt with (in chap, x, sec. 2), and it will 
not be necessary to return to it. 

5. Miscellaneous and minor taboos, — ^There are a 
number of pursuits which, while in progress, entail absti- 
nence from sexual intercourse and all contact with women j 
such, for example, are war, oversea sailing expeditions, 
gardening and one or two magical rites. Again, in certain 
physiological crises, above all pregnancy and lactation, a 
woman must not be approached by a man. The general 
principle which such taboos express is that sex is incom- 
patible with certain conditions of the human body and 
with the nature and purpose of certain occupations j and 
it must not be allowed to interfere with these. 


6. Exogamy, — Sexual intercourse and marriage are 
not allowed within the same totemic clan. They are more 
emphatically forbidden within a sub-division of the clan, 
common membership in which means real kinship. And 
the taboo is stricter yet between two people who can trace 
a common descent genealogically. Yet the natives have 
only one word, suvasova^ to designate all these degrees 
of exogamous taboo. Also, in legal and formal fiction, 



the natives would maintain that all exogamous taboos, 
whether of clan, sub-clan or proven kinship, were equally 
binding. Thus, while an ethnographer would get one 
impression through conversation, he would get an entirely 
different one by observing the behaviour of the natives. 
In the more detailed examination of the subject which 
follows, we shall set practice and legal fiction side by side, 
and show how these work in together. 

7. Taboos within the family and household, — ^The 
father is not a kinsman of his children, and therefore is 
not included in exogamous prohibitions. Nevertheless, 
intercourse between father and daughter is definitely and 
strongly forbidden. There is no doubt that the taboo 
which separates members of the same household is, in the 
reality of tribal life though not in legal theory, a distinct 
force which is superadded to the exogamous taboo. Not 
only do we find its influence in the separation of father 
and daughter, but also in the fact that incest with the 
own mother and with the own sister arouses incomparably 
greater moral indignation than incest with a cousin j not 
to speak of incest with a "classificatory" mother or a 
"classificatory" sister, which is easily condoned. 

8. The taboo of adultery. — ^This safeguard to the 
institution of marriage need only be mentioned here, as it 
has been fully dealt with in chapter v. 

9. The taboos of relationship in law. — Although 
there is no formal avoidance, sexual intercourse between 
a man and his mother-in-law is definitely wrong. Neither 
must a man have erotic relations with the sisters of his 
wife or with the wife of his brother. Marriage with a 



deceased wife's sister, though not forbidden, is regarded 
with disfavour. 

10. Rules safeguarding the frivileges of the chief. — 
This type of restriction and those which follow are not of 
the same stringency as the foregoing taboos. They are 
rather vague rules of conduct, enforced by a general 
feeling for what is expedient and by somewhat diffuse 
social sanctions. It is unsafe to interfere with any woman 
in whom a man of high rank is interested. The ordinary 
prohibition of adultery becomes much more stringent 
when the woman concerned is married to a chief. The 
chief's wife, giyovilay is the subject of a special reverence 
and of a general taboo, which, however, is honoured as 
much in the breach as in the observance. For she is more 
desirable and generally no less willing to be desired 5 and 
there is a touch of irony and mock respect in certain 
sayings and turns of speech in which the word giyovila 

11. Barriers of rank. — The distinction between high 
and low birth, which divides one sub-clan from another, 
applies to women as well as to men. It is a general prin- 
ciple that people of high rank {guya^u) shall not mate 
with commoners {tokay). In marriage, this rule is strictly 
kept only with regard to the pariah communities of 
Bwaytalu and Ba'u, which have had perforce to become 
endogamous, since no man or woman from another village 
likes to enter into permanent union with any of the in- 
habitants. The members of the highest sub-clan, the 
Tabalu of Omarakana (of the Malasi clan), find their 



most fitting consorts among two or three other dala (sub- 
clans) in the north-western district. 

In prenuptial intercourse, also, there would be some 
show of discrimination. A girl of high rank would be 
ashamed of owning to an intrigue with a low-class com- 
moner. But the distinctions in rank are many and their 
interpretation not too rigid j and the rule is certainly not 
followed strictly where intrigues are concerned. Girls of 
high-rank villages, such as Omarakana, Liluta, Osapola, 
or Kwaybwaga, do not visit the "impure" villages, Ba'u 
and Bwoytalu, on katuyausi expeditions. 

12. Restrictions as to number in intrigues. — As we 
have already said, too open and too insistent an interest 
in sex, especially when exhibited by a woman, and too 
obvious and too general a success in love are both cen- 
sured j but the kind of censure is entirely different in the 
two cases. In the latter, it is the male who incurs the 
disapproval of his less fortunate rivals. The great 
dancer, the famous love magician or charmer of his own 
beauty, is exposed to intense distrust and hatred, and to 
the dangers of sorcery. His conduct is considered "bad," 
not as "shameful," but rather as enviable and, at the same 
time, injurious to the interests of others. 

This concludes the list of restrictions placed upon free- 
dom in sexual intercourse. It is clear that moral indigna- 
tion varies in kind and degree with the categories trans- 
gressed — ^whether these be perversion or incest, breach 
of exogamy or the infringement of matrimonial and other 
prerogatives. The last four categories — adultery, tres- 



pass on the chief's preserves, intercourse with social in- 
feriors, and numerical excess of intrigues — embrace of- 
fences which arouse neither contempt nor moral indigna- 
tion j they are enforced according to the power of the 
aggrieved party, backed by the passive support of com- 
munal opinion. An adulterer caught in -flagrante may 
be killed, and this will be recognized as legal retribution, 
and not be followed up by a vendetta, especially if the 
adultery be with a chief's wife (see ch. v, sec. 2). The 
pre-eminently successful man— especially if of low rank 
and distinguished only by personal qualities — ^would be 
exposed to the danger of sorcery rather than to that of 
direct violence. And sorcery also would be used against 
a man suspected of adultery but not caught in the act. 
An interesting ethnological document, which throws 
some light on the retributive use of sorcery, is provided 
by the specific signs found on a corpse at exhumation indi- 
cating the habit, the quality, or the misdeeds for which 
the man was killed by sorcery. The natives — in common 
with most primitive races — do not understand "death 
from natural causes." When not the result of an obvious 
physical lesion, death is caused by black magic, practised 
by a sorcerer on his own account, or on behalf of some 
notable who pays him to bring about his enemy's death. 
On the body of the victim, when it is ritually taken out 
of the grave, are found signs {kala wabu) which show 
why he was killed and thus indicate on whose behalf it 
was done. Such signs may point to sexual jealousy, per- 
sonal antagonism, political or economic envy as the 
motive 5 and of frequent occurrence is the sign indicating 



that the victim's too pronounced erotic propensities were 
his undoing. 

Thus marks are sometimes found on a corpse which 
resemble the erotic scratches {kimali) so characteristic of 
native love-making. Or the body when exhumed is 
found doubled up with the legs apart, an attitude taken 
during copulation by man as well as by woman. Or the 
mouth is pursed, as if to produce the loud smacking of the 
lips by which one sex invites the other into the darkness 
beyond the light of village fires. Or again the body 
swarms with lice, and, as we know, lousing each other 
and eating the catch is a tender occupation of lovers. All 
these signs indicate that the man was done to death by 
sorcery because he was too much addicted to sexual 
pleasures, or could boast of too many conquests and such 
as gave special offence to some powerful rival. There 
are also a number of standardized patterns which may be 
found on a corpse suggestive of dancing decoration. 
These indicate that jealousy of his personal appearance, 
of his renown as a dancer and as a seducer by the dance 
was the cause of his death.^ 

Such signs have to be noted by the deceased's own 
relatives, they are discussed freely — ^generally, however, 
without any mention of the suspected sorcerer's name or 
of his employer's — and no special shame attaches to them. 
This is noteworthy in connection with the native's attitude 
to the last few taboos, that is those which safeguard the 
rights of the husband, of the lover, and of the com- 

1 Compare the writer's Crime and Custom, pp. 87-94, for a full list of 
sorcery signs and their significance in tribal law. 



munity. Success in love, personal beauty, and surpassing 
accomplishments are reprehensible because they appeal 
especially to women and always encroach upon the rights 
of someone who, if he can, will avenge the wrong by 
means of sorcery. But, unlike other sexual offences, 
adultery and success with women are not felt to be shame- 
ful or morally wrong. On the contrary, they are envi- 
able, and surround the sinner with a halo of almost tragic 

Perhaps the most important linguistic distinction which 
throws light upon the native psychology as regards taboos 
is furnished by the use of the word bomala (taboo). This 
noun takes the pronominal suffixes of nearest possession — 
homa-gu (my taboo), homa-m (thy taboo), homa-la (his 
taboo) — which signifies that a man's taboo, the things 
which he must not eat or touch or do, is linguistically 
classed with those objects most intimately bound up with 
his person: parts of his body, his kindred, and such per- 
sonal qualities as his mind {nanola)^ his will {magild)^ 
and his inside (lofoula). Thus bomala, those things 
from which a man must keep away, is an integral part 
of his personality, something which enters into his moral 

Not all the restrictions and prohibitions on our list can 
be called by this name. And when it is correctly used, 

1 It was necessary to classify taboos in some way, in order to present 
the material in a form in which it could be easily surveyed. Obviously 
my fundamentum di'visionis — the type of action forbidden — is not the only 
possible basis for such a classification. The taboos could, for instance, 
be regrouped according to sanction, intensity of moral feeling, or the vary- 
ing degree of general interest taken in the prohibition. These differen- 
tiating qualities, already indicated, will emerge even more clearly in the 
course of the descriptions which follow. 



its meaning is subject to many subtle variations, indicated 
by tone and context, according to its application. In its 
full and correct meaning, the word bomala applies to all 
the acts which are specifically called by the natives 
suvasova — that is, to incest within the family and breach 
of exogamy. In this context, the word bomala denotes an 
act which must not be committed because it is contrary 
to the traditional constitution of clan and family 5 and 
to all the inviolable laws which have been laid down in 
old times {tokunabogwo ayguriy "of old it was or- 
dained"). Besides this general sanction, which is felt to 
be rooted in the primeval nature of things, the breach of 
the suvasova taboo entails a supernatural penalty: an ill- 
ness which covers the skin with sores and produces pains 
and discomfort throughout the body. (This supernatural 
penalty can, however, be evaded by the performance of 
a specific magic which removes the bad effects of en- 
dogamous intercourse.) In the case of incest between 
brother and sister, a very strong emotional tone enters 
into the attitude of the natives, that is, into the significance 
of the word bomala^ endowing it with an unmistakable 
phonetic colouring of horror and moral repugnance. 
Thus even in their narrowest and most exclusive sense, 
the words bomala and suvasova have various shades of 
meaning and imply a complex system of traditional law 
and of social mechanism.^ 

The word bomala is also used in its legitimate sense 
of "taboo" for the several minor prohibitions, such as are 

^ Compare the detailed account of the various contraventions and eva- 
sions of traditional law given in Crime and Custom* 



inherent in a man's office, situation or activity, and in this 
application it still carries something of the idea of a 
peremptory traditional rule, maintained by supernatural 
sanctions. But though the only correct description for 
such taboos is the word homalay it implies in this context 
a different emotional attitude, milder sanctions and a 
different type of rule. 

In a less rigid sense homala is used to denote the taboos 
of adultery, the inexpediency of meddling with what is 
sexually claimed by a chief, and the undesirability of 
mating outside one's own rank. In these contexts, how- 
ever, the word covers only the idea and feeling of a 
definite rule. It entails neither supernatural sanctions 
nor the emotion of pronounced moral disapproval, nor 
even the feeling of a strong obligation. This application 
of the word is, in fact, not quite correct: the word 
huhunelay "custom, the things which are done," used with 
a negative, would be more accurate here. 

Bomala could not be correctly used of actions felt to 
be shameful and unnatural, actions of which no sane and 
self-respecting person would be guilty. Neither does it 
apply to "lack of dignity and decorum," nor to actions 
of hazardous enjoyment, nor to pre-eminent sexual suc- 

Thus, by the rules of usage, this word yields a native 
classification of taboos into three groups: the genuine 
taboos with supernatural sanction, the clear prohibitions 
without supernatural sanction, and prohibitions of acts 
which must not be done because they are shameful, dis- 
gusting, or else dangerous. 



The widest linguistic instrument serving to express the 
distinction between lawful and forbidden, and applicable 
to all the restrictions of our twelve classes, is given by the 
pair of words bwoyna and gaga (good and bad). Such 
general terms are naturally of loose application, cover a 
wide range of meanings, and gain some precision only 
from the context in which they are used. Thus, acts as 
repugnant and unspeakable as brother-sister incest, and 
as desirably dangerous as adultery with a chief's wife, 
would be called gaga indiscriminately. Gaga means, in 
one context, "morally unpardonable and only to be atoned 
by suicide" j in another, "against the law, against cus- 
tom" 5 in others, "indecorous," "unpleasant," "ugly," 
"disgusting," ^^shameful," "dangerous," "dangerously 
daring," "dangerous and thus admirable." 

Analogously, the word bwoyna means everything from 
"palatable," "pleasant," "seductive," "attractive because 
naughty" to "morally commendable because of the in- 
herent hardships." An action which is strongly flavoured 
with the tempting taste of forbidden fruit might, there- 
fore, be plausibly labelled either bwoyna or gagay accord- 
ing to the mood, context, situation, and emotional twist 
of the sentence. So that these words — taken as isolated 
fragments of vocabulary — afford only a vague index to 
the moral statements, and do not give us even as much 
help in defining native views and values as the word 

There is, perhaps, no more dangerous instrument than 
a native vocabulary for the unwary ethnographer to 
handle, if he is not assisted by a thorough working knowl- 



edge of the native language, which alone enables him 
to control the meaning of his terms through their ex- 
tensive usage in various contexts. To note down isolated 
terms with their translations into pidgin, and to parade 
such crude translations as "native categories of thought" 
is directly misleading. There has been no greater source 
of error in Anthropology than the use of misunderstood 
and misinterpreted fragments of a native vocabulary by 
observers not thoroughly conversant with native tongues 
and ignorant of the sociological nature of language. The 
misleading effects of this are most harmful in the faulty 
collection, in the field, of so-called systems of classi- 
ficatory kinship terms, and in the reckless speculative use 
of such fragmentary linguistic material.^ 

To one who uses native speech freely, a clear indica- 
tion of the shades of meaning implicit in the words 
bwoyna and gaga is given by their phonetic feeling-tone 
in actual utterance. This, together with the emotional 
inflexion of the whole sentence, the facial expression, the 
accompanying gestures and significant behaviour, gives a 
number of clearly marked distinctions in meaning. Thus, 
to repeat, gaga can express genuine moral indignation 
amounting to real horror, or serious considerations of a 
purely utilitarian nature, or, spoken with a smirk, a 
pleasant veniality. Such observations, however, though 
of the greatest value to the ethnographer for his own 
guidance, could be made into an unambiguous record only 
by means of a phonograph and cinematograph, which, 

1 This thesis will be developed in my forthcoming work on Psychology 
of Kinship, announced in the International Library of Psychology (Kegan 


again, by the nature of the subject, it would be difficult 
if not impossible to use. 

Fortunately, once put on his guard and instructed by 
direct observation of expressive tone and gesture, the 
ethnographer can substantiate his results from other 
material more easily framed into convincing documents. 
There exist a number of circumlocutions and more ex- 
plicit phrases, which the natives volunteer in elaborating 
the meaning of bwoyna and gaga. Such elaborations recur 
independently in the statements of different men from 
different villages and districts. They constitute a body of 
linguistic evidence coinciding with emotional distinctions, 
and expressing these in a more communicable manner. 

When speaking of the most serious offences — ^the 
brother-sister incest, forbidden fornication within the 
household, or open indecency between husband and wife 
' — the natives say the word gaga very seriously, at times 
with real horror in their inflexion. Then an informant 
would be more explicit: bayse sene gaga ("this is very 
bad"); or gaga^ g^g^y a repetition which intensifies the 
sense of the word; or gaga mokita ("truly bad"), and 
add: sene mwa^u bayse, gala tavagi ("this is very heavy, 
we do not do it"). Or, again, when pressed to say what 
a man would feel or do if he committed such a crime, 
the native would usually answer: gala! — gala tavagi — 
taytala ta^u ivagi — nanola bigaga, binagowa, imamata, 
ilo^u: "No, we don't do it. If a man did it, his mind 
having turned wrong and silly, he would wake up (i.e. 
become sober and realize his crime) and commit suicide." 
Or he might say more negatively: gala tavagi — tanum^ 



way lava, or gala tavagi — tafnwasawa^ higagahile: "We 
don't do it and then forget," or "We don't do it and then 
play round and remain light-hearted." Sometimes an 
ordinary informant might refuse to discuss such matters 
at all: bayse gaga^ gala talivala^ biga gaga: "This is bad, 
we don't speak about it, it is bad talk." All these stock 
phrases spoken seriously, or with disgust and anger, ex- 
press the strongest disapproval. Experience and tact 
teach the observer that such subjects must never be ap- 
proached with direct reference to the informant, to his 
sister or to his wife. Even the friendliest native, if acci- 
dentally hurt by a tactless remark of this kind, immedi- 
ately departs and remains away for days. All such sen- 
tences and types of behaviour define the first meaning of 
the word gaga. 

Gaga in some contexts can, therefore, mean repugnant, 
horrible, unspeakable 5 in others it refers to the naturally 
unpalatable and to contemptible actions which shock the 
natives' normal sexual impulse. Here the feeling-tone 
ranges from simple disgust to half -amused malice. The 
circumlocutions run as follows: gala tavagi; iminayna 
nanogu; balagoba: "We don't do itj my mind turns sick 
(if I did it)j I would vomit." Tonagowa bayse si 
vavagi: "These are the acts of a mentally deficient per- 
son." Gala tavagi y kada mwasila: "We don't do it, be- 
cause we are ashamed." Senegaga — makawala mayna 
fofu: "Very bad — smells like excrement." Makawala 
ka^ukwa — tomwota gala: "In the fashion of a dog — ^not 
of a man." That is, actions worthy of a dirty animal 
and not of a human being. 



They can give definite reasons why sexual aberrations 
are bad: in sodomy, the disgusting nature of excrement 5 
in exhibitionism, a contemptible lack of shame and dig- 
nity j in oral perversions, the unpleasant taste and smell. 
All these sayings express the second meaning of the word 
gagay "unnatural, disgusting, not worthy of a sound 
human being." So used, it implies an sesthetic attitude 
as well as a. moral one, and there is less feeling that 
a traditional commandment has been broken than that a 
natural law has been flouted. 

Another class of sayings defines the word gaga as 
meaning "dangerous." Gaga — Iglhuru^a matauna: tako- 
kola bwaga^Uy kidama igisayda, sene mma^u — boge bika- 
tumate: "Bad — because that man (the aggrieved man) is 
angry 5 we are afraid of the sorcerer, if they see us 
(doing it), the punishment would be heavy — already we 
would be killed." Or again, gala tavagiy fela guya^Uy or 
fela la mwala: "We don't do it because of the chief," or 
"because of the husband." Here bad means "dangerous, 
exposing to revenge, that which provokes the anger of 
the injured." 

Finally, speaking of minor taboos we would be told: 
Gaga fela bomala bagula: "Bad because of the taboo of 
the garden." Gaga fela kabilia: tavagi — boge iyousi 
kayala: "Bad, because of war: if we do it — already the 
spear hits us." Here the word gaga qualifies a number of 
actions as undesirable and to be avoided, because of their 
specific consequences. 

From this it can be seen that the classification of moral 
values indicated in the use of the words bwoyna and gaga 



roughly corresponds to that derived from the word 

We will now give such details concerning the taboos 
on our list as have not been mentioned in this and the 
foregoing chapters, taking them in the following order: 
in the next two sections, the first group of our classifi- 
cation, general sexual prohibitions j in sections five and 
six, sociological restrictions on sexual freedom. 


The widest class of sexual activity excluded from native 
life is that comprising aberrations of the sexual impulse 
(No. I of the list in sec. 2). The natives regard such 
practices as bestiality, homosexual love and intercourse, 
fetishism, exhibitionism, and masturbation as but poor 
substitutes for the natural act, and therefore as bad and 
only worthy of fools. Such practices are a subject for 
derision, tolerant or scathing according to mood, for 
ribald jokes and for funny stories. Transgressions are 
rather whipped by public contempt than controlled by 
definite legal sanctions. No penalties are attached to 
them, nor are they believed to have any ill results on 
health. Nor would a native ever use the word taboo 
{bomala) when speaking of them, for it would be an 
insult thus to assume that any sane person would like to 
commit them. To ask a man seriously whether he had 
indulged in such practices would deeply wound his vanity 
and self-regard, as well as shock his natural inclination. 



Vanity would be especially wounded, by the implication 
that he must be unable to procure the full natural enjoy- 
ment of his impulse if he has to resort to such substitutes. 
The Trobriander's contempt for any perversion is similar 
to his contempt for the man who eats inferior or impure 
things in place of good, clean food, or for one who suflFers 
hunger because there is nothing in his yamhouse. 

The following are typical remarks on the subject of 
perversions: "No man or woman in our village does it.'^ 
"No one likes to penetrate excrement." "No one likes 
a dog better than a woman." "Only a tonagowa (idiot) 
could do it." "Only a tonagowa masturbates. It is a 
great shame j we know then that no woman wants to copu- 
late with him J a man who does it, we know, cannot get 
hold of a woman." In all native statements the unsatis- 
factory nature of a substitute or makeshift is emphasized, 
and the implication is of poverty as well as of mental 
and sexual deficiency. The natives would also quote in- 
stances such as that of Orato'u, the village clown of 
Omarakana, deformed and defective in speech j the sev- 
eral albinos and a few specially ugly women j and say that 
such people, but not an ordinary man or woman, might 
practise one perversion or another. 

Of course, we know that such statements of a general 
and absolute rule express a figment, an ideal, which, in 
reality, is only imperfectly satisfied. Most of these aber- 
rations are practised, though to a very limited extent, just 
as the deficient and ugly are not entirely excluded from 
the normal exercise of their sexual functions (see also 
ch. X, sec. 2). 



Let us now consider different types of perversion. 

Homosexuality. — ^This orientation of the sexual im- 
pulse, if it exists at all among the Trobrianders, can be 
found only in its more spiritual manifestation, that is, in 
emotional and Platonic friendships. It is allowed by 
custom, and is, indeed, usual, for boy friends to embrace 
one another, to sleep together on the same couch, to walk 
enlaced or arm-in-arm. In the personal friendships which 
to the natives naturally express themselves by such bodily 
contacts, strong preferences are displayed. Boys are often 
seen in couples: Monakewo and Toviyamata, Mekala'i 
and Tobutusawa, Dipapa and Burayama, most of whom 
are now familiar to my readers, were constantly to be 
seen together. Sometimes such a friendship is just a 
passing whim, but it may survive and mature into a 
permanent relationship of mutual affection and assistance, 
as did that between Bagido'u and Yobukwa'u, and, I was 
told, between Mitakata and Namwana Guya'u before 
these two became implacable enemies. The word 
lubaygUy "my friend," is used for such close alliances 
between man and man, and it is remarkable that this word 
also designates the love relation between man and woman. 
But it would be as erroneous to consider this identity in 
language as implying an identity in emotional content as 
it would be to assume that every time a Frenchman uses 
the word amiy a homosexual relation is implied, simply 
because of its connotation when used by one sex of an- 
other. In France, as in the Trobriands, context and situ- 
ation distinguish the two uses of the word ami iluhaygu) 
and makes them into two semantically different words. 


Difficult as it is exactly to draw the line between pure 
^'friendship" and "homosexual relation" in any society — 
both because of laxity in definition and because of the diffi- 
culty of ascertaining the facts — it becomes almost impos- 
sible in a community such as the Trobriands. Personally, 
I find it misleading to use the term "homosexuality" in the 
vague and almost intentionally all-embracing sense that is 
now fashionable under the influence of psycho-analysis 
and the apostles of ^^Urning*^ love. If inversion be de- 
fined as a relationship in which detumescence is regularly 
achieved by contact with a body of the same sex, then the 
male friendships in the Trobriands are not homosexual, 
nor is inversion extensively practised in the islands. For, 
as we know, the practice is really felt to be bad and 
unclean because it is associated with excreta, for which 
the natives feel a genuine disgust. And while the ordi- 
nary caresses of affection are approved as between mem- 
bers of the same sex, any erotic caresses, scratching, nib- 
bling at eyelashes, or labial contact would be regarded 
as revolting. 

As we have said, there is always some discrepancy be- 
tween theory and practice 5 but in estimating the impor- 
tance of exceptions, we must allow for unnatural condi- 
tions of life and the influence of other civilizations. 
Many natives are, under the present rule of whites, 
cooped up in gaol, on mission stations, and in plantation 
barracks. Sexes are separated and normal intercourse 
made impossible 5 yet an impulse trained to function regu- 
larly cannot be thwarted. The white man's influence 
and his morality, stupidly misapplied where there is no 



place for it, creates a setting favourable to homosexuality. 
The natives are perfectly well aware that venereal disease 
and homosexuality are among the benefits bestowed on 
them by Western culture. 

Although it is impossible for me to quote any well- 
authenticated instance of this perversion from the old 
times, I have no doubt that sporadic cases have always 
occurred. Indeed, the existence of such expressions as 
ikaye fofu: "he copulates excrement," ikaye fwala: "he 
penetrates rectum," and the well-defined moral attitude 
towards it, are sufficient evidence of this. Some inform- 
ants would go so far as to admit that homosexuality had 
been practised formerly, but they would always insist that 
it was only by mentally deficient people. On the whole, 
therefore, it is clear that this prohibition is not imposed 
upon an unwilling moral acceptance, but is well en- 
trenched in the feeling and natural impulse of the natives. 
How far this attitude is correlated with the wide and 
varied opportunities for normal intercourse j how far it 
is true that homosexuality is more efficiently eradicated by 
derision than by heavy penalties, are questions which can 
only be submitted as a subject for further observations 
in the field.^ 

Bestiality. — This is derided as an unclean and unsatis- 
factory makeshift, even more incongruous and comical 
than inversion. It is remarkable that among a totemic 
people — who claim affinity with animals, and treat the pig 
as a member of the household — animal sodomy should 

^ Cf. the writer's Sex and Repression in Savage Societies, 1927, where 
the problem has been discussed at length in part ii. 



still be regarded as a dirty and unnatural practice. The 
natives see no continuity or relation between totemic mar- 
riage and intercourse, on the one hand, as these took place 
in mythological times, and, on the other, what might be 
called totemic fornication at the present day. 

A well-documented case of bestiality is on record, how- 
ever, concerning a man who copulated with a dog. It is 
noteworthy that the case is famous throughout the dis- 
trict, that the name of the man, all the circumstances, and 
even the name of the dog "Jack" are household words in 
every village. It is also interesting that, while it is always 
described or alluded to with considerable amusement, 
there are clear indications that the matter would not be in 
the least amusing if it concerned oneself or a kinsman 
or friend. "If I did it, or any one of my maternal kins- 
men or friends, I would commit suicide." Yet the culprit, 
Moniyala, has lived down his shame. He leads a happy 
existence in Sinaketa, where I had the pleasure of meeting 
him, and having a long conversation with him. The sub- 
ject of his past lapse, however, must never be mentioned 
in his presence, for, the natives say, if he heard anyone 
speaking about it he would commit lo^u (suicide by jump- 
ing from a tree). 

The circumstances of this case were as follows: Moni- 
yala was serving with a trader who owned a male dog 
called Jack. The two became friendly and, one day, 
a girl saw Moniyala sodomizing the dog on the beach. 
A scandal broke out, the native missionary preacher 
brought the matter before the white resident magistrate 
who placed Moniyala in gaol for six months. After his 



release Moniyala signed on for plantation work abroad 
and stayed on the mainland of New Guinea for several' 
years. When he came back he was able to brazen it out; 
but everybody seems to think that, in old days, he would 
have committed suicide. The natives agree that a dog 
is worse than a pig, the former being the uncleaner animal. 

Sadism and masochism. — Whether these complemen- 
tary perversions play a large part in the sexual life of the 
natives I am unable to say. The cruel forms of caress — 
scratching, biting, spitting — to which a man has to submit 
to a greater extent even than the woman, show that, as 
elements in eroticism, they are not absent from native love- 
making. On the other hand, flagellation as an erotic 
practice is entirely unknown; and the idea that cruelty, 
actively given or passively accepted, could lead, of itself 
alone, to pleasant detumescence is incomprehensible, nay 
ludicrous, to the natives. I should say, therefore, that 
these perversions do not exist in a crystallized form. 

Fellatio. — ^This is probably practised in the intimacy 
of love-making (see above, ch. x, sec. 12). Receiving my 
information exclusively from men, I was told that no 
male would touch the female genitals in this manner, but, 
at the same time, I was assured thzt fenilinctus was ex- 
tensively practised. I do not feel convinced, however, of 
the truth of this masculine version. The expression, 
ikanumwasi kalu momonay "lapping up the sexual dis- 
charges," designates both forms of fellatio. 

Masturbation {ikivayni kwila: "he manipulates penis," 
isulumomoni: "he makes semen boil over") is a recog- 
nized practice often referred to in jokes. The natives 



maintain, however, that it would be done only by an idiot 
{tonagowa) or one of the unfortunate albinos, or one 
defective in speech 5 in other words, only by those who 
cannot obtain favours from women. The practice is 
therefore regarded as undignified and unworthy of a man, 
but in a rather amused and entirely indulgent manner. 
Exactly the same attitude is adopted towards female 
masturbation (ikivayni wila: "she manipulates cunnus"j 
il?asi wila o yamala: "she pierces vagina with her hand"). 

Nocturnal follutions and dreams have already been 
mentioned (see ch. xii, sec. i). They are regarded, as 
we know, as the result of magic and a proof of its effec- 

Exhibitionism is regarded by the natives with genuine 
contempt and disgust: this has already been made clear 
in the above description of the manner of dressing and 
the careful adjustment of the male pubic leaf and femi- 
nine grass skirt. 

In the treatment of these deviations of the sexual im- 
pulse, it is impossible to draw a rigid line between the use 
of certain practices — such as fellatio, passionate and 
exuberant caresses, interest in the genitals — when they are 
used as preliminary and preparatory sexual approaches 
on the one hand, and as definite perversions on the other. 
The best criterion is whether they function as a part of 
courting, leading up to normal copulation, or whether 
they are sufficient by themselves for the production of 
detumescence. It is well to remember in this context that 
the nervous excitability of the natives is much less than 
ours, and their sexual imagination is relatively very 



sluggish j that excitation and tumescence are usually 
achieved only by the direct visual, olfactory, or tactual 
stimulus of the sexual organs 3 and that orgasm, in man or 
woman, requires more bodily contact, erotic preliminaries, 
and, above all, direct friction of the mucous membranes 
for its production. It is, therefore, plausible to assume 
that preparatory erotic approaches with the natives would 
have less tendency to pass into autonomous acts, that is 
to develop into perversions, than is the case among ner- 
vously more excitable races. 


On the subject of general decorum (No. 2 of the list 
in sec. 2) in sexual matters, there is little to add to the 
information given in previous chapters j and a brief sum- 
mary will suffice to bring the facts to mind. Decency in 
speech and behaviour varies according to the relation in 
which the members of any company stand to each other. 
The presence of a sister and brother imposes a rigid pro- 
priety in social tone and conversation j and, to a lesser 
extent, so does that of maternal cousins and members of 
the same clan. Again, when a woman is accompanied by 
her husband, a strict etiquette must be observed. The 
wife's sister is also an embarrassing companion 5 and in a 
lesser degree so is the wife's mother or any of her near 
maternal relatives. In the presence of a chief, commoners 
may not joke or use obscene expressions. The degree of 
verbal freedom permitted is determined by the degree 



of intimacy and length of acquaintance. Many a time 
have I seen my most ribald friends sit demure, polite, and 
dignified, discussing such subjects as weather, health, the 
amenities of travel, the welfare of mutual friends and 
other universal subjects of small talk, because of the 
presence of strangers from overseas or from some distant 
inland district. When these had gone away the conver- 
sation was apt to assume a specially hilarious tone to com- 
pensate for this polite reticence. 

But though licence in speech is allowed and enjoyed 
in the right company, great restraint is always observed in 
public as regards action. In vain would one look in the 
Trobriands for traces and survivals of the untrammelled 
licence and lust alleged to have existed in primeval times. 
With the one possible exception of the Southern kayasa 
(ch. ix, sec. 5) there are no public orgies in which men 
and women would copulate in the sight of all present, 
orgies which have been reported from other parts of 
Melanesia. The myths and legendary customs which we 
have described are, of course, irrelevant, and even these 
are not really concerned with public orgies for the sat- 
isfaction of lust. To the natives sexual publicity is 
definitely objectionable. They will say that they are 
"ashamed to do or even to speak about such things," that 
"such things are like those of a dog." In the bachelors' 
house (see ch. iii, sec. 4) considerable attention is devoted 
to the maintenance of an exclusive privacy. All this is in 
harmony with the natives' strict attention to modesty in 

Even courting is conducted most decorously. Scenes 



of frequent occurrence in any public park in Europe, after 
dark or even before, would never be seen in a Trobriand 
village. Holding hands, leaning against each other, em- 
bracing — ^gestures which, as we know, are not considered 
objectionable as between boys and are frequently seen 
between girls — are not permitted to lovers in public. I 
observed once or twice that Yobukwa'u and his betrothed 
used to lie together on a mat in broad daylight, deco- 
rously, but unmistakably leaning against each other and 
holding hands, in a manner which we would find perfectly 
natural in a pair of lovers soon to be married. But when 
I mentioned this in discussing the whole subject with 
some natives, I was told at once that it was a new fashion 
and not correct according to old custom. Tokolibeba, 
once a famous Don Juan, now a peppery old conservative 
and stickler for proprieties, insisted that this was mmnan 
si bubunela, "missionary fashion," one of those novel im- 
moralities introduced by Christianity. He spoke with as 
much feeling and righteous indignation as the late Rev. 
G. M. Hyde of Honolulu might have used against 
heathen pruriency. 

We can now understand * better the value of erotic 
games to the native. The bodily contacts afforded by 
them are appreciated just because, under ordinary cir- 
cumstances, they cannot be indulged. All preliminary 
erotic approaches must be carried out under cover of dark- 
ness. And since much of the love magic, with which they 
are so often fortified, requires close bodily contact (see 
chs. X and xi) the games are there to provide it. Nipples 
are touched with a magic-covered palm, a charmed finger 



is inserted into the vagina, or an enchanted perfume held 
below the nostrils, discreetly in the dark, as the game 
gives opportunity. It is always suspected but never seen 5 
even when quarrels and litigations arise because some such 
attempt to wile away affection is alleged, it is difficult 
to find a witness of the act. 

This by-way of native practice gives incidentally a 
good illustration of the dangers which beset the eth- 
nologist. In the early days of my field-work, my cook, 
Ubi'ubi, whom I had imported from the South Coast of 
New Guinea, was accused of digital insertion by the local 
natives. At this time I did most of my work in pidgin 
English, and I find in my notes that my interpreter in- 
formed me that his action had a special native name: 
"Boy he call him kaynobasi wila,^ that is to say: "The 
custom is named by the native the piercing through the 
vulva." I could not understand why among these easy- 
going people this action should arouse such strong moral 
feeling, and I made an entry in my notes: "The custom 
of inserting a finger into the vagina is morally very rep- 
rehensible to the natives." Thus, ignorance of the lan- 
guage and a superficial acquaintance with the natives led 
:me completely astray. To put the whole incident in its 
proper perspective, it was necessary to understand the 
native attitude towards decorum in general and, in par- 
ticular, their beliefs about erotic enchantment by magic. 
It was not so much that my cook-boy allowed himself a 
somewhat unseemly gesture, but rather that he was sus- 
pected of exercising a powerful form of magic to alienate 
the girl's affections from her usual lover. 



Thus behaviour between the sexes conforms to a defi- 
nite standard of decorum, which, needless to say, is not 
the same as morality. Speech, on the other hand, is given 
a much more generous margin of freedom. Relative 
latitudes in speech and behaviour would make an interest- 
ing investigation for comparative ethnology, for they do* 
not seem to develop along parallel lines. Indeed, greater 
freedom of speech, acting as a safety valve, may be asso- 
ciated with greater restraint in behaviour, and vice versa.^ 

In an appropriate social setting, sex is quite a favourite 
topic of conversation. Ribald jokes, indecent gossip and 
anecdotes are a recognized form of entertainment, as we 
saw in connection with sexual folk-lore. In this, as ia 
everything else, I found considerable individual differ- 
ences. Some natives were sober in speech and not much- 
interested in sexual ribaldry ^ others specialized, so tO' 
speak, in obscene speech and doubtful jokes. The sense 
of humour, also, varied greatly from man to man, from 
the morose and unsmiling churl or the naive good- 
natured simpleton, to the man with real wit and humour^ 
always ready for a joke, able to tell a good story, and sel- 
dom taking offence unless it was meant. With Paluwa 
and his son Monakewo, with Tokulubakiki and Kayla'i, 
I could indulge in a considerable amount of mutual "rag- 
ging" j they would never misunderstand an allusion or a 
joke, and often they made me laugh with an apt obser- 
vation, turned against myself and not always devoid of 
malice. Again there are the chartered village clowns, 
some of whom like Orato'u, the idiot of Omarakana, 

1 Cf. Sex and Repression, part ii. 



turn their speech impediment to advantage, while others, 
whose humour is of the crude and impudent kind, play- 
practical jokes, shout out their witticisms, take liberties 
even with men of high rank, or imitate, sometimes quite 
cleverly, peculiarities of well-known persons. 

But in all grades of humour, sexual jokes and allusions 
play an important part. When no people of the forbid- 
den degrees are present, sexual matters are discussed 
without circumlocution j anatomical and physiological ex- 
pressions, phrases denoting perversions and peculiarities 
are freely used. 

I shall quote only a few typical sayings to indicate how 
this type of remark enters into daily conversation. In 
the excitement of games or of communal work, the native 
will express intense general enjoyment by exclaiming: 
agudeydeSy akay kwim! "hullo, fornicate thy penis!" or, 
if addressing a female, wim, kasesam! "thy cunnus, thy 
clitoris!" A humorous expression is: yakay, fuwagu! 
"oo, my testicles!" Exclamatory phrases referring to 
private parts with embellishments are often jocularly ex- 
changed between friends, much as we might say: "damn 
your eyes!" 

We have already met several such typical jesting allu- 
sions in the fairy tales, especially in the song of the reef 
heron to the old woman, Ilakavetega (see ch. xii, sec. 3). 
The interest taken in malformations of the private parts 
is to be found also in the story about the man with the 
long penis, the woman who stows away food in her vagina, 
and the old mother endowed with five clitorises. In 
actual life a native will say jocularly: kwaypwase wim, 



"decomposed thy cunnus"^ or wim ipwase, "thy cunnus 
is decomposed" 3 or kwaybulabola wifyiy "enormously en- 
larged is thy cunnus" j or, for a change, kwayfatu wifyiy 
"contracted is thy cunnus." And to a man: kaykukufi 
kwiniy "very small is thy penis" 5 kaygatu kwiniy "dirty 
is thy penis" j kalu nau^u kwimy "covered with stale dis- 
charge is thy penis" j kayfakt kwimy "sore-covered is thy 
penis." Apart from jokes, the natives take a great in- 
terest in supposed malformations or advantageous incre- 
ments and developments of the sexual organs. Thus, to 
a man of high rank and of great reputation will be at- 
tributed an extraordinarily long and stout organ. The 
late paramount chief, Numakala, was credited with a penis 
which u^ed to grow in length during copulation and be- 
come swollen and round like a ball at the end. This was 
counted to his credit and treated seriously as an enviable 
erotic asset. 

Incongruity in sexual matters is a frequent subject for 
jokes. Thus possible or imputed copulation with women 
famed for their repulsiveness, such as Tilapo'i or Kura- 
yana, is, as we know, a frequent form of jocular address. 
Kwoy TilafoH! "copulate with Tilapo'i!" is a very mild 
form of abuse J or a friend coming from the direction of 
her village might be hailed, Boge kukaye TilafoH? "Hast 
thou already copulated with Tilapo'i?" The slightest 
inaccuracy or imagined inaccuracy in the set of the pubic 
leaf is immediately seized upon: Yavim boge ifwase — 
taglse fuwatriy "thy pubic leaf is out of order — let us see 
thy testicles." Similar jokes are made about insufficiently 
shaven pubic hair and about alleged fornication with some 



old woman or a chief's wife. Taunts implying intensity 
or illicitness of copulation are frequent: tokakayta yokuy 
tokaylasi yokuy tosuvasova yokuy "Thou fornicator, thou 
.adulterer, thou incest-committer.'^ 

All these remarks, however, are primarily used in 
friendly banter from which serious and offensive forms 
•of abuse must be distinguished. Swearing is used in the 
Trobriands, as with us, as a substitute reaction to minor 
annoyances, and is so used against things or people with- 
out giving serious offence. The strongest forms of abu- 
sive language would not, however, be used on such trivial 
occasions. Swearing in anger may lead to serious conse- 
quences when the temper of those concerned is not under 
control. It may lead to a more or less prolonged breach 
of personal relations, to a fight, or even to a communal 
feud. Or, again, abuse can be used deliberately to shame 
or to startle people by putting their misdeeds before them 
in strong language. This is done when a grievance is 
real and serious enough to be brought up against the of- 
fender to check him, but not so grave and shameful as to 
entail such tragic consequences as a broken relationship or 
suicide. Thus a wife might shame a husband suspected 
of misconduct by using against him in public the various 
circumlocutions and direct expressions for adultery. She 
would do so only in a narrow circle of friends, breaking, 
for this moral purpose, the usual restraint which a woman 
has to observe with regard to her husband. Or, again, a 
matrilineal uncle might use this method to reprimand his 
nephew for minor cases of exogamous breach 5 or a father 
might reprove his daughter for too indiscriminate or too 



aggressive fornication. Such reprimands would not be 
administered in the presence of many people, but, in their 
appropriate setting of friends or relatives, they play an 
important part in the regulation of tribal life. Kakayuwa^ 
"to shame," "to startle," "to shake up," and yakala, "to 
have it out with someone," are the words used to describe 
such proceedings.^ 

In such admonitory accusations certain abusive terms 
are used, such as adulterer {tokaylasi)^ breaker of incest 
{tosuvasova) \ or, to a woman, wanton {nakakayta) or 
drab {nakaytahwd). The same terms can be used, not in 
well-meant and deliberate reprimand, but as abuse meant 
to hurt and to hurt only; and if, thus used, they happen 
really to apply, the insult is doubly serious. For the 
truth, in the Trobriands as elsewhere, is the crudest and 
most fatal instrument of malice. 

Bad language is also used in certain expressions of spe- 
cific abuse meant only to offend and not, as a rule, bearing 
any relation to fact, as they often refer to acts almost im- 
practicable. Most such expressions begin with the char- 
acteristic imperative so widespread throughout swearing 
humanity: in this case, "Copulate with . . . ," followed 
by various unsuitable persons as putative objects for 
erotic approach — sometimes a repulsive person, sometimes 
a dog, sometimes an unattractive part of the body. This 
is the most innocuous form of this kind of abuse, and is 
only offensive if offence is intended. It becomes really 

1 Compare Crime and Custom, ch. xii, for further data referring to 
yakala and the part played by verbal accusation in the regulation of 
tribal life, and Sex and Repression, part ii, ch. iv, on the subject of bad 



serious when a sociologically forbidden person is inserted 
as object. The two incestuous imperatives kwoy inamy 
"copulate with thy mother," and kwoy lumuta^ "copulate 
with thy sister," with kwoy um kwava^ "copulate with 
thy wife," form the fundamental trio of this category. 
The first invitation can be merely a joke and is often used 
in good-natured abuse or at times sharply and with annoy- 
ance, but never implies serious offence. It is also a 
common impersonal expletive, such as our "bloody" or 

Used with reference to the sister, it is an unpardonable 
offence when addressed to a person, and is felt to be so 
pregnant with dangerous consequences that it is never 
used impersonally as a mere expletive. And when the 
real name of the sister or brother is inserted — ^for the 
word lumuta means thy sister when a man speaks and thy 
brother when a woman speaks — it is the second worst of- 
fence imaginable to a Trobriander. Remarkably enough, 
even stronger is the expression: "Copulate with thy wife." 
This is so unmentionable to the natives that, in spite of 
my scientific interest in bad language, I was very long 
without knowing that it existed and, even in telling me 
this expression, my informants were serious, subdued, and 
unwilling to dwell on the subject. Their attitude to this 
phrase is correlated with the rule that the erotic life of 
husband and wife should always remain completely con- 
cealed, and it has a special indecency in that it refers to 
an action which does as a matter of fact take place. 

Another form of typical abuse is "Eat your excre- 
ment," with several variants which we have already men- 



tioned in this chapter. A third category, also familiar to- 
ns (see ch. vii, sec. 6), is the assertion of physical simi- 
larity to any maternal relative, and worst of all, of course, 
to the sister. Migim lumutUy "Thy face thy sister's," is- 
one of the worst insults possible. 

Blasphemy, strictly speaking, does not exist, although' 
the natives say that they would not use indecent expres- 
sions with regard to ancestral spirits and that, both in this 
world and after they have left it, they would use very 
guarded language about Topileta (see ch. xir, sec. 5).: " 

The native words for swearing or abuse are kamtoki 
and kayluki used with reflective personal plurals. Thus 
ikaylukwaygu or ikamtokaygu means "he is abusing me." 
Another expression ikavitagi yagagu means literally, "He 
has fouled my name," or, when similarity with a maternal 
relative has been referred to, ikavitagi fntgigUy "he has 
befouled my face." In all swearing the addition of the 
name of the person abused, and, when it is a sociological- 
insult, of the sister, wife or mother, adds considerably to 
the strength of the insult. 

In this and in other contexts we find that whenever the 
natives touch on something that has really happened, 
greater restraint is necessary and allusions and abuse be- 
come much more poignant. A man will talk freely about 
himself and his own erotic affairs^ — in fact the confidences 
of my various friends have furnished the best material 
for the present book — ^but even in this there were limitsj 
and of the incestuous or adulterous or tabooed intrigues'' of 
many of my acquaintances I had to learn, not from them, 
but from their best friends. Here again, though such 



gossip would be retailed freely behind the man's back, it 
would never be spoken of, to his face. The incestuous 
affairs of the chief's sons in Omarakana, the hopeless 
matrimonial prospects of Monakewo or Mekala'i were 
never spoken about in their presence. Delicacy in touch- 
ing upon the intimate concerns of those present is as great 
among the Trobrianders as among well-bred people in 

We now pass to No. 3 in our classification of taboos, 
disapproval of sexual greed and lechery (see list in sec. 2). 
Inability to master desire, leading to insistent and aggres- 
sive sexuality, is regarded with contempt both in man 
and in woman, though it is felt to be really repugnant 
only in women. Thus Yakalusa, a daughter of a chief of 
Kasana'i, was accused of spontaneously approaching men, 
talking to them, and inviting them to have intercourse 
with her. A similar reputation attached to several girls 
in Omarakana. Again there are clear cases on record of 
nymphomaniacs, who could not be satisfied with moderate 
sexual intercourse and required a number of men every 
night. There was a girl of Kitava who actually made the 
round of the main island in search of erotic diversion. 
While I was staying in Sinaketa she also was a visitor 
there and gossip was very active though not specially 
antagonistic. It was said that she would go out into the 
jungle with a group of boys and withdraw with one after 
another, spending days and nights in this occupation. 

It must be made clear, exactly what it is that the na- 
tives find reprehensible about sexual greed in a woman. 
It is certainly not her interest in fornication, nor is it the 



fact that she initiates the intrigue 3 they object to direct 
invitation in place of the more seemly method of seduc- 
tion by magic, and to the unsuccess and small sense of 
personal worth that such urgent solicitation implies. 

The native term for such women is nakaytahwd (drab), 
which was thus elaborated to me: sene bidubadu tomwota 
ikakayta; gala ilukwali kalu bulabola — sene nakaytabwa. 
This might be rendered: "Very many men she copulates 
with 5 not satisfied is ever her large orifice — such a one 
we call a drab." Here we get a direct mention of sexual 
insatiability j in other words, an expression of the idea of 

Two alternative expressions for nakaytabwa are naka- 
kayta (literally, "female copulator"), and the expression 
nakd*ulatile ("wanton") which was explained to me as 

Kidatna tayta vivila gala imaymaysi tau^a^Uy 
Supposing one woman no they come men, 
ilolo wala titolela ifnwayki ta^u — 
she goes indeed herself she comes to man — 
yagala naka^ulatile, 
her name wanton. 

Or freely: "When a woman has no men who come to her^ 
and takes the initiative and goes herself to a man, we call 
her a wanton." It is clear that the moral censure incurred 
by such women is founded on the shame that attaches to 
erotic unsuccess. 

Censure of lechery in a man has the same foundation. 
Tokokolosi is the word used to denote a man who pursues 



women and inflicts his attentions on them. An interest- 
ing instance occurred in my own experience. After about 
eighteen months' absence, I returned to Omarakana and 
resumed my old acquaintance with Namwana Guya'u. 
He, as we know, had been worsted by Mitakata and hated 
him impotently, therefore he sought to blacken him in 
my eyes, and brought the most venomous possible charge 
against him: 

Tokokolosi matauna ibia vivila: hoge 

A rutter this man he pulls women: already 
ifakayse kumaydona. Minana ifaykiy 

they refuse all. This woman refuses, 

matauna iyousiy ibia. 
this man catches, pulls. 

To make the picture really sinister Namwana Guya'u 
added a touch of exhibitionism to it: 

Iliku yavila, bitotona kwila; 

He undoes pubic leaf his, it stands up penis hisj 
iluki vivila: ^^Kuma kwabukwani 

he tells (to a) woman: "Come get hold (of) 
huoigu,^^ Boge ifakayse vivila y 

penis mine." Already they refuse women, 
'pela tokokolosi vivila, 

because satyr (towards) women. 

In free translation: "He undoes his pubic leaf, and 
allows his penis to become erect. He then tells a woman: 



^Come and caress my penis.' Women already are dis- 
gusted with him because he is such a satyr." 

In this one text we find an expression of the native 
contempt for exhibitionism, insistent pursuit of women, 
and unsuccess in lovej and women's dislike of too eager 
attentions. We have, also, the interesting association be- 
tween the removal of the pubic leaf and erection. 

The whole attitude of the Trobriander towards sexual 
excess displays an appreciation of restraint and dignity j 
and an admiration for success j not only for what it gives 
to a man, but because it means that he is above any need 
for active aggression. The moral command not to vio- 
late, solicit, or touch is founded on a strong conviction 
that it is shameful j and shameful because real worth lies 
in being coveted, in conquering by charm, by beauty and 
by magic. Thus all the threads of our account weave into 
one complex pattern; manners, morals, and aesthetic judg- 
ment fit into the psychology of love-making and of con- 
quest by magic. 

If I were allowed to go beyond the scope of the present 
study, I should like to demonstrate that the same pattern 
is also found in the psychology of economic and cere- 
monial give-and-take, and in the native views concerning 
reciprocity in legal obligation. Everywhere we find dis- 
approval of direct solicitation, of covetousness and cupid- 
ity, and, above all, the dishonour attaching to real need 
and dearth. Plenty, on the other hand, and wealth, com- 
bined with a careless generosity in giving, are glorious.^ 

1 Cf. the analysis of economic psychology in Argonauts of the Western 
Pacific, ch. vi, and passim, and of the principle of reciprocity in Crime 
and Custom. 



The only category of taboos in our general list which 
now remains is No. 5 of our list in section 2, that com- 
prising miscellaneous prohibitions arising out of special 
occasions in tribal life. When engaged in warfare, men 
must abstain from sexual intercourse whether with wife 
or paramour. The taboo becomes operative from the day 
when, with a special ceremony called valuta bulamiy the 
forces are mustered and war magic is set in motion. Not 
only must a man abstain from any sexual intercourse, but 
he is not allowed to sleep on the same mat or on the 
same bedstead with a woman. Certain houses are re- 
served for men, while the women and children congregate 
in others. Any amorous dalliance at such a time would 
be regarded as dangerous to the community's chances of 
winning the war, and therefore as shameful and unseemly. 
Further, there are definite penalties which would fall on 
the individual transgressor. Should he indulge in inter- 
course, a hostile spear would pierce his penis or his tes- 
ticles. Should he sleep nose to nose with his sweetheart, 
he would be hit on the nose or thereabouts. Were he to 
sit even on the same mat with a girl, his buttocks would 
not be safe from attack. I had the impression from the 
way in which my informants spoke about the matter, that 
the war taboos were fully and rigorously observed. No 
doubt the men were far too engrossed in the excitement 
-of the fighting to turn any attention to the more usual and 
therefore, perhaps, less absorbing sport of love. 

The gardens should not be in any way associated with 
amorous advances. Neither within the enclosure proper 




nor anywhere near it, should a man and a woman be 
found love-making. In the phrase for describing illicit 
love-making the belt of bush adjoining the garden 
{tokeda) is specified (see pi. 88). To have intercourse 
in or near the gardens is called by the natives isikayse 
tokeduy "they sit down upon the belt of bush adjoining 
the garden." Particularly objectionable are any advances 
on the part of men during the garden work which is espe- 
cially done by women: the fwakova ("weeding") and the 
koumwali ("clearing of the ground before planting"). 
It will be remembered that the legendary fornicator, 
Inuvayla'u, was wont to approach the women when en- 
gaged on this and other specifically feminine occupations 
and that this was one of the worst traits in his character. 
It is improper for a man even to be present during any 
of these occupations: communal weeding or clearing, col- 
lecting shells, fetching water, gathering firewood from 
the bush, the ceremonial making of fibre petticoats. In- 
tercourse in the gardens is punished by a special visitation: 
the bush pigs are attracted by the smell of seminal fluid, 
they break through the fences and destroy the gardens. 
A special taboo enjoins chastity on women who remain 
at home while their husbands and lovers are away on a 
kula expedition. Any infidelity affects the speed of their 
husbands' canoes and causes them to move very slowly 
(see also above, ch. v, sec. 2). The taboos imposed dur- 
ing pregnancy and ?J?ter childbirth have already been 
described in detail (see ch. viii), as well as the aversion 
(not fortified by supernatural penalties) from intercourse 



during menstruation. This concludes our survey of the 
general taboos, and we now proceed to special prohibitions 
associated with kinship and relationship by marriage. 


The sociological regulations which divide persons of 
the opposite sex into lawful and unlawful in relation to 
one another 3 which restrain intercourse in virtue of the 
legal act of marriage and which discriminate between cer- 
tain unions in respect of their desirability, have to be dis- 
tinguished from the taboos of a general nature already 
described. In these we found expressions of disapproval, 
ranging from horror to distaste, of certain sexual acts and 
approaches, defined physiologically or by the occasion on 
which they occur. The rules to which we now proceed 
can be stated only with reference to social organization, 
and above all to the institution of family and the division 
into totemic clans.^ 

The totemic organization of the natives is simple and 
symmetrical in its general outline. Humanity is divided 
into four clans {kurmla), Totemic nature is conceived 
to be as deeply ingrained in the substance of the indi- 
vidual as sex, colour, and stature. It can never be 
changed, and it transcends individual life, for it is car- 
ried over into the next world, and brought back unchanged 

1 The institution of marriage is inseparable from the family and will, 
therefore, be mentioned incidentally in what follows. It has already been 
treated in some detail with the taboos and regulations which it entails 
(cf. chs. iv, V, and vi, and the penultimate section of this chapter). 



into this one when the spirit returns by reincarnation. 
This fourfold totemic division is thought to be universal, 
embracing every section of mankind. When a European 
arrives in the Trobriands, the natives simply and sincerely 
ask to which of the four classes he belongs, and it is not 
easy to explain to the most intelligent among them that 
the totemic fourfold division is not universal and rooted 
in the nature of man. The natives of neighbouring areas, 
where there are more than four clans, are invariably and 
readily made to conform to the fourfold scheme by allo- 
cating several of the alien clans to each one of the four 
Trobriand divisions. For such subordination of minor 
groups to the larger divisions there is a pattern in Tro- 
briand culture, since each of their big totemic clans com- 
prises smaller groups called dalay or, as we shall call 
them, "sub-clans." 

The sub-clans are at least as important as the clans, for 
the members of the same sub-clan regard themselves as 
real kindred, claim the same rank, and form the local unit 
in Trobriand society. Each local community is composed 
of people belonging to one sub-clan, and to one sub-clan 
only, who have joint rights to the village site, to the sur- 
rounding garden-lands, and to a number of local privi- 
leges. Large villages are compounded of several minor 
local units, but each unit has its own compact site within 
the village and owns a large contiguous area of garden- 
land. There are even different terms to denote member- 
ship within the sub-clan and membership in the clan. 
People of the same sub-clan are real kinsmen, and call 
one another veyogUy my kinsman. But a man will only 



apply this term loosely and metaphorically to one who, 
though a member of the same clan, belongs to a diflFerent 
sub-clan, and will, if questioned directly, inform you that 
the other man is only pseudo-kindred, using the depre- 
catory term kakaveyogu (my spurious kinsman). 

Each of the four clans has its own name: Malasi, 
Lukuba, Lukwasisiga, Lukulabuta. Such a clan name is 
used by a man or a woman as a definition of his or of 
her social identity: "My name is so-and-so, and I am a 
Malasi." There are special combinations of the clan 
names with formative roots, to describe men and women 
and the mixed plurality belonging to the same clan: 
Tomalasi — a Malasi man 5 Immalasi — a Malasi woman j 
Memalasi — the Malasi people 5 Tolukuba — a Lukuba 
man 3 Imkuba — a Lukuba woman 3 Milukuba — the Lu- 
kuba people, and so on. When a man says Tomalasi 
yaygUy he gives a sociological definition of his place within 
the universal fourfold division of mankind, and he also 
thereby settles his associations in any community to which 
he has recently arrived. To a native this statement indi- 
cates a number of personal characteristics as well, or at 
least potentialities: such as magical knowledge, citizenship 
(when the sub-clan is also mentioned), moral and intel- 
lectual propensities, historical antecedents, relation to cer- 
tain animals and plants and also an indication of rank. 
Thus the Malasi claim primacy among other totemic di- 
visions, though this is only very grudgingly granted by 
members of other clans. 

The Malasi have, however, a good piece of heraldic 
evidence in their favour. Near the village of Laba'i, on 



the northern shore of the main island, there is a spot 
called Obukula, which is marked by a coral outcrop. 
Obukula isj in fact, a "hole" {dubwadebula) ^ or "house" 
(bwald) 3 that is to say, one of the points from which the 
first ancestors of a lineage emerged. For before they 
appeared on this earth, human beings led a subterranean 
existence similar in all respects to life in surface Tro- 
briand villages and organized on the same social pattern. 
They dwelt in identical local communities, were divided 
into clans and sub-clans, were grouped into districts, and 
lived as good a family life as do present-day natives. 
They also owned property — that is gugu^a^ the workaday 
implements and chattels, and vaygu^a, "valuables," and 
houses, canoes, and land. They practised arts and crafts 
and possessed specific magic. 

Now, when they decided to come up to the surface of 
the earth, they collected all their belongings and emerged 
in the locality of which they wanted to take possession. 
The spot of their emergence is usually marked by a 
grotto, a large boulder, a pool, the head of a tidal creek, 
or merely a large stone in the village centre or street (see 
pi. 89). In this way they established the traditional 
claim to ownership of the "hole" and its surroundings 5 
that is, of the village site, which often lies immediately 
round the hole, of the adjoining lands, and of the eco- 
nomic privileges and pursuits associated with the locality. 
It is the rule in Trobriand mythology that, originally, 
only one couple emerged from each such "hole," a brother 
and a sister j she to start the lineage, he to protect her and 
look after her affairs. Thus the rule is: one clan, one 



village, one portion of garden-land, one system of gar- 
dening and fishing magic, one pair of brother and sister 
ancestors, one rank and one pedigree. This latter can 
never be really traced, but it is firmly believed to go back 
to the original woman who came out of the hole. 

To this "one-hole-one-line-one-sub-clan" rule there is 
only one exception, the hole of Obukula already men- 
tioned. In this case we have one hole for the four main 
clans j we have ancestors who are defined not by sub-clan 
but by their clan identity j and we have an act of emer- 
gence which established not a special form of citizenship 
and ownership, not privileges for one sub-clan, but the 
respective position of the four clans in the scale of rank. 

The myth of the hole of Obukula runs thus. First the 
representative of the Lukulabuta, its totemic animal the 
Kaylavasi (iguana or giant lizard), came to the surface, 
scratching away the earth as these animals will do. He 
ran up a tree and from this point of vantage waited for 
what should follow. Nor did he have to wait long. 
Through the hole he had made scrambled the dog, the 
animal of the Lukuba clan, who, the second on the scene, 
obtained the highest rank for the time being. His glory 
was short-lived, however, for soon afterwards came the 
pig: that noble animal, very close to man himself in rank, 
and representative of the Malasi. The last to appear was 
the animal of the Lukwasisiga clan, variously described as 
the snake, the opossum, or the crocodile. The myths dis- 
agree as to its identity and indeed this ambiguous animal 
plays the least important part in the story and in Tro- 
briand totemism. 



The pig and the dog played together j and the dog, 
running through the bush, saw the fruit of a plant called 
noku. This is considered by the natives a very inferior 
form of nourishment, and although it is not specifically 
forbidden to any clan or person, it is eaten only in times 
of greatest dearth and famine. The dog smelt it, licked 
it, and ate it. The pig seized his opportunity, and then 
and there laid down the charter of his rank, saying: "Thou 
eatest nokuy thou eatest excrement j thou art a low-bred 
commoner. Henceforth I shall be the guya^Uy the chief." 
From this incident dates the Malasi claim to rank higher 
than the other clans, and one of their sub-clans, the 
Tabalu, have, indeed, the highest position 5 they are the 
real chiefs, acknowledged to be of supreme rank, not by 
the Trobriands only, but by the adjoining areas as well. 

Thus do the natives account for the difference in rank. 
The partaking of unclean food — the most important cri- 
terion of social inferiority — caused the downfall of the 
Lukuba, and the rise of the Malasi. But it must be re- 
membered that this latter clan includes besides the highest 
sub-clan (the Tabalu), that one which is most despised, 
associated with the village of Bwaytalu. No respectable 
Lukuba man would marry a Malasi woman from that vil- 
lage j no Tabalu would claim kinship with any one of its 
inhabitants, and he takes it very badly when it is pointed 
out that they are his kakaveyola (pseudo-kindred). The 
natives of the several local communities in the compound 
village of Bwaytalu, Ba'u, and Suviyagila form, as we 
have already mentioned, a practically endogamous dis- 
trict in which the members of the various clans have to 



observe exogamy within their circle of villages, since they 
cannot mate outside it. We have thus an endogamous 
district within which totemic exogamy is observed. 

Thus in respect of rank, it is the sub-clan rather than 
the clan that matters, and this holds good with regard to 
local rights and privileges. In a village community which 
belongs to the Lukwasisiga of the Kwaynama sub-clan,, 
only members of the latter are citizens. Others of the 
Lukwasisiga clan, who do not belong to that sub-clan are 
no more at home there than the Malasi or the Lukuba 
would be. The clan, therefore, is primarily a social cate- 
gory rather than a group, a category in which a number 
of animals, plants, and other natural objects are placed. 
But the totemic nature of a clan is not of great impor- 
tance, and its religious significance is very much over- 
shadowed by its social functions. The clan as a whole is 
to be seen at work only in certain big ceremonies, when 
all the sub-clans of the Malasi or Lukuba or Lukwasisiga 
or Lukulabuta act together and support one another. 

It was necessary to give a somewhat detailed and con- 
crete account of clan and sub-clan, of their organization, 
mythology, and social functions, in order to present them 
as living and effective units rather than as a mere numeri- 
cal scheme ornamented by native names. The aspect of 
clan organization, however, which interests us here pri- 
marily, is exogamy, that is the prohibition of sexual inter- 
course within the clan. All members of the same large 
group designate themselves, as we know, by the same 
name, and this, especially in the simpler cultures, is not 
merely a label but an indication of nature. A common 



name means, to a certain extent, an identity of personal 
substance, and kinship implies a bodily sameness. 

The real importance of the clan in native imagination 
and society is illustrated by an interesting linguistic dis- 
tinction. The native word for "friend" is lubaygUy sig- 
nifying "the man with whom I associate from choice, 
because I like him." A European who is learning the 
language invariably makes mistakes in using this word. 
Wherever he sees two men closely associated, getting on 
well together, and obviously on friendly terms, he de- 
scribes their relationship by the word lubayla (his friend), 
without first finding out whether they are kindred. But 
this word may only be applied to a man's friend from 
another clan, and it is not only incorrect, but even im- 
proper, to use it of a kinsman. Whenever I used the ex- 
pression lubaym (thy friend) to denote a man's close 
companion from the same clan, I was rather sharply cor- 
rected. Gala! Veyogu mataunay veyoda — kumila tay- 
tanidesi! ("No! this man is my kinsman 5 we're kinsmen 
— ^the clan is the same!") Thus a twofold scheme in the 
relations between men is clearly defined linguistically by 
the two words for friend, one meaning "friend within the 
barrier," the other "friend across the barrier." This dis- 
tinction shows how strong is the idea of clanship j it also 
corresponds to the classificatory use of kinship terms, and 
to the whole scheme of native relationship. 

Needless to say, the same distinction is made when 
speaking or thinking of the relation between a man and 
a woman. The word lubaygUy meaning here "sweetheart 
or lover," can never be applied to a woman of the same 

501 . 


clan. In this context it is even more incompatible with 
the concept of veyola (kinship, that is the sameness of 
substance) than in the relation between two men. Women 
of the same clan can only be described as sisters (ludaytasi, 
our sisters 5 luguta, my sister ^ lumuta^ thy sister 5 luletay 
his sister). Women of other clans are described by the 
generic term tabu- (with affixed pronouns: tuhudayasly 
our cousins 3 tahugUy my cousin 5 tabumy thy cousin, etc.). 
The primary meaning of this word is "father's sister." 
It also embraces "father's sister's daughter" or "paternal 
cross-cousin," or, by extension, "all the women of the 
father's clan" 5 and, in its widest sense, "all the women 
not of the same clan." 

In this, its most extensive application, the word stands 
for "lawful woman," "woman with whom intercourse is 
possible." For such a woman the term lubaygu ("my 
sweetheart") may be correctly usedj but this term is ab- 
solutely incompatible with the kinship designation, lugutay 
my sister. This linguistic use embodies, therefore, the 
rule of exogamy, and to a large extent it expresses the 
ideas underlying this. Two people of the opposite sex 
and standing in the relation of brother and sister in the 
widest sense, that is belonging to the same clan, must 
neither marry nor cohabit, nor even show any sexual in- 
terest in one another. The native word for clan incest or 
breach of exogamy is, as we know already, suvasova. 

As we know, the expressions tosuvasova yoku (thou 
incest committer), kay suvasova kwim (thou incestuous 
penis), kway suvasova wvm (thou incestuous cunnus) fall 
into the category of insults or accusations. They can, 



nowever, be used either lightly and without offence, or 
seriously as statements of fact with even tragic conse- 
quences. This double use of the expression corresponds 
to a deep-lying moral distinction between degrees of 
exogamous breach: a distinction which is not easily 
grasped save after prolonged field-work, as it is overlaid 
by an official and indoctrinated theory which the natives 
invariably retail to the unwary ethnographer. Let me 
first state this native theory of suvasova (as obtained by 
the question-and-answer method) which gives only the 
first approach to the true ittitude of the natives. 

If you inquire from intelligent and bona fide inform- 
ants into the various aspects of exogamy and clan or- 
ganization point by point, and make a composite picture 
from their various statements, you will necessarily arrive 
at the conclusion that marriage and sex intercourse within 
the clan are neither allowed nor ever practised and that 
they do not even constitute a serious temptation to the 
natives. Marriage, anyone will tell you, is quite impos- 
sible between men and women of the same clanj nor does 
it ever happen. As to intercourse, this would be most 
improper and would be censured by an indignant public 
opinion. A couple guilty of such an act would, if discov- 
ered, incur the anger of the whole community; they 
would be deeply mortified and terribly ashamed. And to 
the question "What would they do on discovery?" the 
invariable answer is that they would commit suicide by 
jumping from a coco-nut palm. This well-known method 
of escaping from an unpleasant situation is called lo^u. 

"What would happen if they were not discovered?" 



To this the usual answer is that a breach of exogamy en- 
tails by itself an unpleasant though not necessarily fatal 
disease. A swelling of the belly heralds the oncoming 
of this retributive ailment. Soon the skin becomes white, 
and then breaks out into small sores which grow gradually 
bigger, while the man fades away in a wasting sickness. 
A little insect, somewhat like a small spider or a fly, is 
to be found in such a diseased organism. This insect is 
spontaneously generated by the actual breach of exogamy. 
As the natives put it: "We find maggots in a corpse. How 
do they come? I vagi wala — it just makes them. In the 
same way the insect is made in the body of the tosuvasova 
(exogamy breaker). This insect wriggles round like a 
small snake; it goes round and round j it makes the eyes 
swollen, the face swollen, the belly swollen, as in fofoma 
(dropsy, or any other pronounced bodily swelling), or in 
kavatokulo (wasting disease)." And examples are readily 
given of people who have had or are going through a 
similar disease. 

Thus the native statements supply us with a consistent 
theory of incest and exogamy, which could be summarized 
so far by a conscientious ethnographer somewhat as fol- 
lows: "Exogamy is an absolute taboo for the natives, both 
as regards marriage and as regards sexual intercourse; 
there is a strong moral disapproval of it which would 
provoke the anger of the community against delinquents 
and drive them, on discovery, to suicide. There is also 
a supernatural sanction against it, a dreadful disease cul- 
minating in death. Hence exogamy is strictly kept and 
breaches never occur." 



To substantiate this statement an ethnographer would 
adduce linguistic testimony: there is only one word for 
the breach of exogamy, suvasova^ whether this be incest 
with the nearest relative or merely intercourse with a 
woman of the same clan. The linguistic usage is, more- 
over, the typical expression of clan solidarity, of the 
so-called spontaneous obedience to law and custom. Clan 
solidarity is also expressed in the unity of names, in the 
unity of totemic animals, and in the many other forms of 
totemic identification. And, as an additional proof of its 
reality, there is the classificatory use of kinship terms. 

And yet we have already had indications that neither 
the solidarity of clanship, nor the classificatory nature of 
kinship, nor the completeness of the exogamous taboo are 
absolutely maintained in real life. Not only does there 
exist a long scale of penalties and blame inflicted for the 
various degrees of exogamous breach, but marriages 
within the same clan are not unknown and even the most 
flagrant transgressions of the taboo allow of customary 
evasions and adjustments. 

What I wish to make clear, by confronting the gist of 
native statements with the results of direct observation, is 
that there is a serious discrepancy between the two. The 
statements contain the ideal of tribal morality j observa- 
tion shows us how far real behaviour conforms to it. The 
statements show us the polished surface of custom which 
is invariably presented to the inquisitive stranger 3 direct 
knowledge of native life reveals the underlying strata of 
human conduct, moulded, it is true, by the rigid surface 
of custom, but still more deeply influenced by the smoul- 



dering fires of human nature. The smoothness and uni- 
formity, which the mere verbal statements suggest as the 
only shape of human conduct, disappears with a better 
knowledge of cultural reality. 

Since in this divergence between the hearsay method 
of collecting evidence and first-hand experience of sav- 
age life, we have a very important source of ethno- 
graphic error, it must be made clear that blame cannot 
be laid on native informants, but rather on the ethnog- 
rapher's whole-hearted reliance on the question-and- 
answer method. In laying down the moral rule, in dis- 
playing its stringency and perfection, the native is not 
trying really to deceive the stranger. He simply does 
what any self-respecting and conventional member of a 
well-ordered society would do: he ignores the seamy and 
ugly sides of human life, he overlooks his own shortcom- 
ings and even those of his neighbours, he shuts his eyes 
to that which he does not want to see. No gentleman 
wants to acknowledge the existence of what is "not done," 
what is universally considered bad, and what is improper. 
The conventional mind ignores such things, above all 
when speaking to a stranger — since dirty linen should not 
be washed in public. 

The Melanesian is as sensitive to indelicacy and as con- 
ventional in matters of decorum and propriety as any 
mid- Victorian middle-aged gentleman or spinster. Im- 
agine an ethnographer from Mars inquiring of our re- 
spectable gentleman (or spinster) about matrimonial 
morals in England. He would be told that monogamy 
is the one and only form of marriage, that chastity is re- 



quired of both parties before marriage and that adultery- 
is strictly forbidden by law, morals, manners, and our 
code of honour. All this is, in a way, quite true: it em- 
bodies the authorized ideal of religion and morality. 
And if the Martian went on to inquire whether adultery 
occurs in practice, our gentleman (or spinster) would re- 
sent the question as an implied insult and would grow 
cold or hot over it. (For you must remember that he is 
no more accustomed to being used as an informant than 
is the Melanesian gentleman to whom you give a stick of 
tobacco for information received.) 

If the Martian, versed in the modern method of field- 
work, as recommended by some schools of Anthropology, 
should proceed to the "concrete manner of questioning," 
he might really get into trouble. To the concrete inquiry: 
"How many times have you slept with your friend's wife, 
and how often has your wife slept with another man?" — 
the answer would not be verbal but behaviouristic. And 
the Martian, if in a position to do so, would enter in his 
note-book: "The natives of the terrestrial planet never 
commit adultery 5 there is a powerful group sentiment, if 
not group instinct, preventing them from this crime 5 even 
the hypothetical mention of a possible transgression of 
this sacred law puts them into a singular mental state, 
accompanied by emotional discharges, explosive expres- 
sions, and those violent actions which make the term 
^savage' so appropriate to the rude natives of the Earth." 

This statement would be obviously one-sided, and yet 
the terrestrial informant was in no way trying to deceive 
the inquirer. In the case of our own society we know the 



answer to the riddle. The informant, though aware of 
possible breaches of marital fidelity, not only does not 
want to parade them before a stranger but is always ready 
to forget them himself under the influence of strong emo- 
tional attachment to an ideal. Now to a Melanesian the 
subject of possible incest with a near matrilineal relative 
is shocking in the highest degree j while breach of exog- 
amy is one of those subjects which are to be discussed 
only in confidence and among friends. A gentleman in 
the Trobriand Islands is as ready as we are to deceive 
himself, when he feels that tribal honour requires it. He 
is offered a few sticks of tobacco, and told to speak about 
intimate and delicate matters. The anthropologist with 
his rapid and at times penetrating questions, with his in- 
sistence on fact and on concrete detail, arouses the same 
reactions as would the hypothetical inquirer from Mars 
among us. The native may feel hurt and refuse to dis- 
cuss the matter, as happens time after time to a field-? 
worker in the earlier stages of his ethnographic explora- 
tion. Or else he states such ideal conditions as are de- 
manded by his sense of propriety, as do credit to himself 
and to his fellow-tribesmen, and as do not compromise 
anybody or any aspect of his communal life. 

For besides the feeling of dignity and conventional 
subservience to tribal honour, there is another grave rea- 
son why the native does not want to introduce any hap- 
hazard European talker to the seamy side of his com- 
munal life. He is accustomed to find white men nosing 
about his sexual affairs, some in order to interfere with 
his women, others, and worse, to moralize and to improve 



him 5 and, most dangerous o£ all, others to issue laws and 
regulations which introduce difficulties, at times insur- 
mountable, into his tribal organization. Elementary cau- 
tion, then, tells him not to go beyond the most obvious 
generalities and to state merely the bald outline of his 
moral rules and regulations, such as seem unassailable even 
by the most interfering missionary or government official. 

The upshot of all this is that the hasty field-worker, 
who relies completely upon the question-and-answer 
method, obtains at best that lifeless body of laws, regu- 
lations, morals, and conventionalities which ought to be 
obeyed, but in reality are often only evaded. For in ac- 
tual life rules are never entirely conformed to, and it re- 
mains, as the most difficult but indispensable part of the 
ethnographer's work, to ascertain the extent and mech- 
anism of the deviations. 

In order, however, to penetrate to the exception, to the 
deviation, to the breach of custom, it is necessary to be- 
come acquainted directly with the behaviour of the native 5 
and this can be done only through a knowledge of the 
language and through a prolonged residence among the 
people. But most modern scientific field-work has been 
accomplished by the rapid and precise, sometimes over- 
precise, methods built upon the technique of question-and- 
answer, and it suffers from over-simplifying and over- 
standardizing the legal constitution of native culture.^ 
Such material again has led unfortunately to the anthro- 
pological doctrine of the impeccability of native races, of 

^This point has been elaborated as the main thesis in Crime and Cus- 
tom in Savage Society, which should be read in connection with the above 



their immanent legality, and inherent and automatic sub- 
servience to custom. 

Returning now to our special problem of incest and 
exogamy and applying to it the methodological principles 
just discussed, we can ask what more there is to learn 
about these taboos and in what way it is possible to learn 
it. The same informant who at first supplied the rounded- 
ofF official version of them, who even indignantly repudi- 
ated any indiscreet suggestions, begins to know you better 
or finds that you have become acquainted with the real 
facts in some concrete incident. Then you can confront 
him with the contradiction, and he himself will very often 
put you on the scent of the truth and give you a correct 
account of the exceptions and contraventions which recur 
with regard to the rule. 

. A very capable and useful informant of mine, Gomaya, 
who has appeared several times in these pages, was at first 
very touchy on the subject of incest and resented any sug- 
gestions as to its possibility. He was a valuable informant 
because of certain shortcomings in his character. Proud 
and sensitive on points of tribal honour, he was also very 
vain and inclined to boast. Moreover, he soon found that 
he could not conceal his own affairs from me as they were 
notorious through the district. His intrigue with Ilam- 
weria, a girl of the same clan, was a subject for general 
gossip. So, combining necessity with the satisfaction of 
his amour frofrey Gomaya explained to me that a breach 
of clan exogamy — he and his sweetheart belonged to dif-. 
ferent ^b-clans of the Malasi — is rather a desirable and 
interesting form of erotic experience. 



He told me also that he would have married the girl, 
such marriages being possible though viewed with dis- 
favour, had she not become pregnant, and he succumbed 
to the disease which follows upon breach of exogamous 
taboo. He then went off to his native village of Sinaketa 
where he grew worse and worse, until he was helped by 
an old man, a friend of his father's, who knew a very 
powerful magic against such disease. The old man 
chanted spells over some herbs and some water, and after 
the application of this remedy, Gomaya got gradually 
better. The old man then taught him how to perform 
the magic j and ever after, Gomaya proudly added, he 
preferred to sleep with girls of the same clan, always 
using the prophylactic magic. 

All his statements made it clear to me that breach of 
exogamy is rather an enviable achievement, because a 
man thus proves the strength of his love magic in that he 
is able to overcome, not merely the natural resistance of 
women but also their tribal morality. Thus even from 
one personal history it was possible to gather the main 
lines of practice and to understand certain complications 
and apparent contradictions of exogamous prohibitions. 
In further discussions with other natives, and above all 
by the collection of concrete material, I was able to sup- 
plement these earlier statements and to correct them. 
For Gomaya naturally exaggerated certain points in order 
to satisfy his vanity, and he thus put facts into a wrong 
perspective. He represented himself, for instance, as the 
one glorious exception to the rule 3 gave me to understand 
that few people only knew the magic of incest, and that 



breach of exogamy was a singularly daring achievement. 
All of which was not true. 

The fact is that the breach of exogamy within the clan, 
intrigue with what the natives call kakaveyola (kindred- 
in-clan or pseudo-kindred), though officially forbidden, 
ruled to be improper, and surrounded by supernatural 
sanctions, is yet everywhere committed. To use a some- 
what loose comparison, it figures in the tribal life of the 
Trobrianders much in the same way as that in which adul- 
tery figures in French novels. There is no moral indig- 
nation or horror about it, but the transgression encroaches 
upon an important institution, and cannot be officially re- 
garded as permissible. 

Marriages — as distinct from intrigues — within the clan 
are definitely regarded as a serious breach of the rule. 
The one or two cases on record (see e.g. above, ch. xii, 
sec. 4) show that natives will not actively interfere with 
them, once they are contracted. But I found that it was 
not proper to mention the incestuousness of a marriage to 
any of the people concerned nor yet speak about it in the 
presence of their near relatives. Even general allusions 
to incest and exogamy have to be carefully avoided in the 
presence of such transgressors. As to the supernatural 
sanctions, the prophylactic magic already mentioned, per- 
formed over wild ginger root wrapped up in leaves, over 
water warmed by heated stones, and over dry banana leaf, 
is well-nigh universally known and is used very freely. 

Thus the rule of exogamy, far from being uniform 
and wholesale in its application, works differently with 
regard to marriage and to sexual intercourse j is allowed 


certain latitudes by public opinion and permits of evasions 
of the supernatural sanctions. All this had to be stated 
in detail to give a clear idea of the mechanism of exogamy. 

There is also an interesting difference in stringency 
according to the clans in which it happens. Of the four 
totemic divisions, the Malasi have the reputation of being 
the most persistent exogamy breakers and committers of 
incest. All the incestuous marriages on record have hap- 
pened within this clan 3 and I was told that this was not 
an accident but that only the Malasi and no other clan 
will tolerate such marriages. The myth of incest, which 
will be described in the next chapter, is associated with 
the Malasi, and so also is the magic of love and the magic 
to frustrate incest disease. 

Far more stringently are the rules of exogamy obeyed 
when the two people concerned belong, not only to the 
same clan, but to the same sub-clan {dala). Such people 
are called real kinsmen {veyola moklta^ or simply veyola) 
in contradistinction to kakaveyola. Between such people 
a much greater secrecy is observed when incest is com- 
mitted j there is no jauntiness or covert boasting, and mar- 
riage is impossible. 

A still higher degree of stringency obtains when we 
come to kinship traceable in actual genealogy. Incest 
with a mother's sister's daughter is a real crime, and it 
may lead to consequences as serious as suicide. A case of 
suicide described elsewhere illustrates the manner in which 
a man guilty of such incest might have to inflict punish- 
ment upon himself.^ Incest with the own sister is, as we 

1 Cf. Crime and Custom^ pp. 77 and 78, and below, ch. xiv, sec. 3. 



know already, a dreadful crime to the natives. Yet even 
here it would not be correct to assume an absolutely 
smooth and secure working of tribal law, because cases of 
breach of the rule occur in reality as well as in folk-lore. 
But of this we shall have to speak presently. 

Thus the uniformity of the rules and the simplicity of 
the sanctions by which they are enforced is shown to be 
a surface phenomenon, below which run the complex cur- 
rents and undercurrents which form the true course of 
tribal life. On the surface we have one word, suvasova, 
one clan kinship, one punishment, one sense of right and 
wrong. In reality we have the distinction between mar- 
riage and mere intercourse, between clan and sub-clan 
(kakaveyola and veyola\ between genealogical kinship 
and mere community of sub-clan, between the own sister 
and the classificatory sisters. We have also to distinguish 
between direct enforcement by public opinion and by su- 
pernatural sanctions, neither of which works in a simple 
or infallible manner. Any attempt to understand this 
complex state of affairs leads us to the fundamental factor 
in social organization, that is, kinship, and this again can- 
not be properly understood without a knowledge of fam- 
ily life, and the constitution of the family. 



All the sociological divisions, local communities, clans, 
sub-clans, and classificatory kinship groups of the Tro- 
brianders are rooted in the family. Only by studying the 



formation of the earliest bonds between parent and child, 
by following the gradual growth and development of 
these, and their ever-widening extension into bonds of 
local grouping and clanship, can we grasp the kinship sys- 
tem of the natives. 

The fundamental principles of mother-right had to be 
stated at the beginning of this book, since without a 
knowledge of it and of the relationship between father 
and child no description can be given of any native cus- 
tom. We know therefore that, according to tribal law, 
kinship, the identity of blood and body, runs only in 
mother line. We also know that father and child are re- 
lated, in the eyes of the native, merely by a system of 
obligations and reciprocal duties, but that this does not 
exclude a strong bond of an emotional nature between 
them. It will be necessary for us at this juncture to be- 
come acquainted with an outline of native kinship termi- 
nology, though full statement on the subject will have to 
be deferred to a future publication.^ 

Table of Relationship Terms 
A. Kinship Terms 

1. Tabu(gu). — Grandparent, grandchild; father's sister, father's sister's 


2. Ina(gu). — Mother, mother's sister; mother's clanswoman. 

'i. Tama(gu). — Father, father's brother; father's clansman; father's 
sister's son. 

4. Kada(gu). — Mother's brother and, reciprocally, sister's son and sis- 

ter's daughter. 

5. Lu(gu)ta. — Sister (man speaking), brother (woman speaking) ; 

woman of same clan and generation (man speaking), man of same 
clan and generation (woman speaking). 

'^Psychology of Kinship announced to appear in the International Li- 
brary of Psychology. 



<6. Tuwa(gu). — Elder brother (man speaking), elder sister (woman 
speaking) ; clansman of same generation but older (man speak- 
ing), clanswoman of same generation but older (woman speaking). 

7. Bwada(gu). — Younger brother (man speaking), younger sister 

(woman speaking) ; clansman of same generation but younger 
(man speaking), clanswoman of same generation but younger 
(woman speaking). 

8. Latu(gu). — Child, male or female. 

B. Marriage Relationships 

9. (Ulo)mwala. — Husband. 

10. (Ulo)kwava. — Wife. 

C. Relationships-in-laiv 

11. Yawa(gu). — Father-in-law, mother-in-law. 

12. Lubou(gu). — Wife's brother, sister's husband. 

13. Iva(gu)ta. — Husband's sister, brother's wife. 

14. Tuwa(gu). — Wife's elder sister, husband's elder brother. 

15. Bwada(gu). — Wife's younger sister, husband's younger brother. 

In the annexed genealogical diagram we find, printed 
in capital letters, the few words which furnish the key to 
the whole terminology of kinship and form the founda- 
tion both of the sociological system within the native cul- 
ture and of its linguistic expression. These are the words 
used to designate the inmates of the household, the words 
which convey the dominant interests and emotions of 
childhood. They denote those relationships which are the 
starting point of all the social bonds of later life. 

Take, to begin with, the word inagUy my mother, which 
is the first to be uttered by a child in the Trobriands as 
everywhere else.^ The term correlated to it is latugUy by 

1 In the genealogical Diagram the terms are given, without possessive 
pronouns; in the Table with the affixed particle of the first person {gu). 
This particle is usually suffixed to the end of the root {inagu, "my 
mother," tamagu, "my father," etc.), but it is infixed in two terms lu- 
gu-ta and fva-gu-ta. The second person is designated by the particle 
m or mu; tamam, "thy father," lumuta, "thy sister"; the third pers. sing, 
by the particle la, and so on. In actual speech the root is never used 
alone. The abstract meaning is conveyed by using the word with the 




t— • 







S . 











which the mother designates her own child. These are 
the two terms of the mother-to-child relationship on 
which the whole system of native kinship organization 
rests. (In our diagram, Ego is addressed by his mother, 
latugUy and, later, he in turn uses this word to his own 
offspring as indicated there.) Apart from the intense 
emotional interest taken by the mother in her child, and 
the response of the infant to the maternal organism — 
both these elements being physiological and universal in 
all human societies — the relation in the Trobriands is 
sociologically defined by a number of ritual observances, 
beginning with pregnancy and leading the woman into 
those various duties and taboos of early maternity which 
isolate mother and child into a small group of two, inti- 
mately bound up in each other (see ch. viii). The father, 
tamay not regarded as of the same bodily substance, 
stands, nevertheless, in a close emotional, legal, and eco- 
nomic relation to the child (see ch. vii). On the pis. 90 
and 91 we see typical illustrations of maternal and pa- 
ternal attitudes expressing tenderness and pride. 

When the child grows up, it gains a gradual independ- 
ence. But in certain respects this progress is slower and 
lasts longer in Melanesia than among ourselves. Wean- 
ing takes place at a later stage, and the child is surrounded 
by the tender cares of the mother and father, constantly 
carried and watched over, until it passes to freedom and 
independence almost at a single stride. We know already 
(see ch. iii) that children suffer very little interference 

third person singular suffix. Inula means "mother" as well as "his 
mother." All male terms are in roman types; the female in italic. Terras 
for the nearest family relationship are printed in capitals. 



from their parents in the matter of sexual freedom, and 
that in this respect the interests of the child are naturally 
directed away from home and find an easy outlet among 
his playmates of the same age. 

The removal of a child out of his family is due to yet 
another factor, which becomes increasingly prominent and 
which will colour the future sexual life of the individual. 
This is the supreme taboo of the Trobrianderj the pro- 
hibition of any erotic or even of any tender dealings be- 
tween brother and sister. This taboo is the prototype of 
all that is ethically wrong and horrible to the native. It 
is the first moral rule seriously impressed in the indi- 
vidual's life, and the only one which is enforced to the 
full by all the machinery of social and moral sanctions. 
It is so deeply engrained in the structure of native tradi- 
tion that every individual is kept permanently alive to it. 

The relation between brother and sister is denoted by 
the term luguta (No. 5 of our table). This term means 
"sister" when uttered by a male, and "brother" when 
spoken by a female. In its wider meaning it designates 
a person of the opposite sex and of the forbidden class, 
that is, of the same sub-clan or clan as Ego. In its widest 
and metaphorical sense it is used for any tabooed person 
or thing. As a metaphor the word "sister" {luguta) is 
frequently used in magical formulas when such things as 
a blight or a disease are to be exorcized. 

The term luguta is used only with regard to the tabooed 
relationship, since children of the same parents and of 
the same sex use different kinship designations {tuwagu, 
bwadagu) to describe each other j tuwagu meaning "my 



elder brother" (man speaking) and "my elder sister" 
(woman speaking) j and bwadagu "my younger brother" 
(man speaking) and "my younger sister" (woman speak- 

Round the word luguta a new order of ideas and moral 
rules begins to grow up at an early stage of the indi- 
vidual's life history. The child, accustomed to little or 
no interference with most of its whims or wishes, receives 
a real shock when suddenly it is roughly handled, seri- 
ously reprimanded and punished whenever it makes any 
friendly, affectionate, or even playful advances to the 
other small being constantly about in the same household. 
Above all, the child experiences an emotional shock when 
it becomes aware of the expression of horror and anguish 
on the faces of its elders when they correct it. This emo- 
tional contagion, this perception of moral reactions in the 
social environment is perhaps the most powerful factor in 
a native community by which norms and values are im- 
posed on an individual's character. 

The circumstantial arrangements and set customs which 
preclude any possibility of intimate contact between 
brother and sister are also, of course, very important. 
Brother and sister are definitely forbidden to take part at 
the same time in any childish sexual games, or even in any 
form of play. And this is not only a rule laid down by 
elders, but it is also a convention rigorously observed by 
the children themselves. 

We know already (see ch. iii) that when a boy grows 
up and when there is a sister of his living in the parental 
house, he has to sleep in the bachelors' hut {bukumatuld) . 



In her love afiFairs, the girl must most rigorously avoid 
any possibility of being seen by the brother. When, on 
certain occasions, brother and sister have to appear in the 
same company — when they travel in the same canoe, for 
instance, or participate in a domestic meeting — a rigidity 
of behaviour and a sobriety in conversation falls upon all 
those present. No cheerful company, no festive enter- 
tainment, therefore, is allowed to include brother and 
sister, since their simultaneous presence would throw a 
blight on pleasure and would chill gaiety. 

Although, in a matrilineal society, the brother is the 
guardian of his sister, although she has to bend down 
when he approaches, to obey his commands and to regard 
him as the head of the family, he never has any concern 
in his sister's love affairs, nor in her prospective marriage. 
After she is married, however, he becomes the head of 
her family in more than a metaphorical sense. He is 
called by his sister's children kadagu (my maternal 
uncle), and as such exercises great influence, especially 
over the boys.^ 

The careful avoidance by a man of any knowledge 
about his sister's amorous prospects is, I am certain, not 
only an ideal but also a fact. I was over and over again 
assured that no man has the slightest inkling as to whom 
his sister is going to marry, although this is the common 
knowledge of everyone else. And I know that nothing 
remotely touching upon the subject would be uttered 

1 Compare the analysis of this relation in Sex and Repression, pt. ii, 
chs. vi and ix; Crime and Custom, pt. ii, ch. iii; and in this book, ch. i, 
sec. I. 



within earshot of him. I. was told that if a man came by- 
chance upon his sister and her sweetheart while they were 
making love, all three would have to commit lo^u (sui- 
cide by jumping from a coco-nut palm). This is obvi- 
ously an exaggeration which expresses the ideal and not 
the reality: if such a mishap occurred the brother would 
most likely pretend to himself, and to them, that he had 
seen nothing, and would discreetly disappear. But I 
know that considerable care is taken to preclude any such 
possibility, and no one would dream of mentioning the 
subject in the presence of the brother. 

Brother and sister thus grow up in. a strange sort of 
domestic proximity: in close contact, and yet without any 
personal or intimate communication j near to each other in 
space, near by rules of kinship and common interest 5 and 
yet, as regards personality, always hidden and mysterious. 
They must not even look at each other, they must never 
exchange any light remarks, never share their feelings 
and ideas. And as age advances and the other sex be- 
comes more and more associated with love-making, the 
brother and sister taboo becomes increasingly stringent. 
Thus, to repeat, the sister remains for her brother the 
centre of all that is sexually forbidden — its very symbol 5 
the prototype of all unlawful sexual tendencies within the 
same generation and the foundation of prohibited degrees 
of kinship and -relationship, though the taboo loses force 
as its application is extended. 

The nearest female of the previous generation, the 
mother, is also surrounded by a taboo, which is coloured, 
however, by a somewhat different emotional reaction. 



Incest with her is regarded with real horror, but both the 
mechanism by which this taboo is brought home and the 
way in which it is regarded are essentially distinct from 
the brother-sister taboo. The mother stands in a close 
bodily relation to her child in its earliest years, and from 
this position she recedes, though only gradually, as he 
grows up. As we know, weaning takes place late, and 
children, both male and female, are allowed to cuddle in 
their mother's arms and to embrace her whenever they 

When a small boy begins his playful sexual approaches 
to small girls, this does not in any way disturb his rela- 
tionship to the mother, nor has he to keep any special 
secrecy on the subject. He does not, by preference, dis- 
cuss these matters with his parents, but there is no taboo 
against his doing so. When he is older and carries on 
more serious intrigues, he might, in certain circumstances, 
even be allowed to sleep with his sweetheart in his par- 
ents' house. Thus the relation to the mother and the 
sexual relation are kept distinct and allowed to run side 
by side. The ideas and feelings centering round sex on 
the one hand, and maternal tenderness on the other, are 
differentiated naturally and easily, without being sepa- 
rated by a rigid taboo. 

Again, since normal erotic impulses find an easy outlet, 
tenderness towards the mother and bodily attachment to 
her are naturally drained of their stronger sensuous ele- 
ments. Incestuous inclinations towards the mother are 
regarded as highly reprehensible, as unnatural and im- 
moral, but there is not the same feeling of horror and fear 


as towards brother-and-sister incest. When speaking with 
the natives of maternal incest, the inquirer finds neither 
the rigid suspense nor the emotional reactions which are 
always evoked by any allusion to brother and sister rela- 
tions. They would discuss the possibility without being 
shocked, but it was clear that they regarded incest with the 
mother as almost impossible. I would not affirm that such 
incest has never occurred, but certainly I have obtained no 
concrete data, and the very fact that no case survives in 
memory or in tradition shows that the natives take rela- 
tively little interest in it.^ 

The maternal grandmother and her grandson are also 
sexually forbidden to each other, but there is no horror 
about this relationship, such incest appearing as a merely 
ridiculous possibility. As we know, sexual intercourse 
with an old womza is regarded as something indecorous, 
ludicrous, and unsestheticj and this is the light in which 
any suggestion of grandson-grandmother incest is looked 
upon. But such a lapse from good morals and manners 
does not loom largely in fantasies, folk-lore or tribal 
morals. These two call each other by the reciprocal term 
tahugUy which also has the wider meaning of "grand- 
parent," "grandchild," and wider yet, "ancestor," "de- 

So far we have discussed individual kinship in the fe- 
male line and within the household: between mother and 
child, brother and sister, and, going beyond the house- 

1 For a comparison of the two attitudes towards incest with the mother 
and the sister, respectively, and for the correlation of this phenomenon 
with the matrilineal system of kinship and with the natives' treatment of 
infantile sexuality, see the writer's Sex and Repression. 



hold, the relation with the grandmother. I have inten- 
tionally and carefully distinguished this from so-called 
classificatory kinship ties 5 for the mixing up of the indi- 
vidual and the "classificatory" relation, kept apart by the 
natives in law, custom, and idea, has been a most mis- 
leading and dangerous cause of error in anthropology, 
vitiating both observation and theory on social organiza- 
tion and kinship. Looking back to our diagram, and 
carrying the genealogy beyond the family circle, we can 
see that certain terms from within the circle are repeated 
outside it. In the life history of the individual most peo- 
ple who come into contact with the growing child are, in 
one way or another, partially assimilated or compared to 
the child's primary relatives within the household, and the 
terms used for parents, brothers, and sisters are gradually 
extended. The first person from the larger world to 
enter into the circle of kinsmen is the mother's sister, 
who, although she is called by the same term as the own 
mother, inagu, is very definitely distinguished from her. 
The word inagu extended to the mother's sister is, from 
the outset, given an entirely different meaning — some- 
thing like "second mother" or "subsidiary mother." 
When the mother's sister is a member of the same vil- 
lage community, she is a very frequent visitor within the 
household j she replaces the mother in certain functions or 
at certain times, she tends the child, and shows it a con- 
siderable amount of devotion. The child is taught by its 
elders to extend the term inagu to her, and this extension 
is made natural and plausible to the child by the consid- 



erable similarity between its relations to mother and 
mother's sister. 

But there can be no doubt that the new use of the word 
remains always what it is, an extension and a metaphor. 
In its second sense Inagu is used with a different feeling- 
tone j and there are circumlocutions, grammatical usages, 
and lexicographical indices which differentiate the sec- 
ondary from the primary meaning. Only to a linguis- 
tically untrained European observer, especially if he is not 
conversant with the native language, can the word Inagu 
(2) (mother's sister) appear identical with Inagu (i) 
(own mother). On this point any intelligent native, if 
properly questioned, could correct the ethnographer's 

The same gradual extension, and corresponding change 
in emotional content, takes place with regard to other 
terms, and the word luguta^ used to the mother's sister's 
daughter, conveys to the boy only an attenuated and di- 
luted idea of sisterhood. The own sister remains a pro- 
totype of the new relation, and the taboo observed towards 
the own sister has also to be kept with regard to the sec- 
ondary sister 5 but the distinction between the two taboos 
and the two relations is well marked. The real sister 
lives in the same house 3 for her the boy, as her future 
guardian, feels a direct responsibility 5 she remains the 
object on which the first and only serious prohibition has 
been brought home to him. The secondary sister lives in 
another house or even village 5 there are no duties or re- 
sponsibilities towards her and the prohibition with regard 
to her is a weakened extension of the primary taboo. Thus 



the own sister and the first maternal cousin appear in an 
entirely different light, not only as regards the degree, 
but as regards the fundamental quality of the relation. 
Incest with the first maternal cousin is regarded as wrong, 
but not horrible j as daring and dangerous, but not abomi- 
nable. The early feeling for this distinction becomes, 
later on, crystallized in the doctrine of tribal law. The 
man knows and recognizes that luguta ( i ) is a person to 
whom he owes a great many duties, whom he has partly 
to support after her marriage, and with regard to whom 
he has to observe the supreme taboo. Luguta (2) has no 
specific claims on him, he is not her real guardian nor head 
of her household after marriage, and the sexual taboo 
does not operate with anything like the same stringency. 

When we pass from the "secondary" relations, denoted 
by the terms inagu (2) and luguta (2) to more distant 
relatives, the intimacy of the bond and the stringency of 
the taboo falls off rapidly. To take the relation of luguta 
as an example : if a boy and girl can be traced to a common 
great-grandmother in the mother line, they are luguta. 
But the taboo would be much weaker. Beyond this it 
would be difficult even to index the term, as the relation- 
ship ceases to be traceable by pedigree. It would be just 
that of real kinship within the same sub-clan: lugutay 
veyogu moklta — dalemasl taytanidesi ("sister mine, kins- 
woman mine truly — sub-clan our identical)." 

When we go beyond the sub-clan to the clan {kumila)y 
the relation becomes less intimate once more and the taboo 
less stringent: luguta walay kakaveyogu — kama kumila 
taytanidesi ("just my sister, my pseudo-kinswoman — 



mine and her clan identical)." This defines the word 
luguta in its fully extended, that is truly classificatory 
sense. It means, as we know already, one of those women 
with whom sex intercourse is legally forbidden, but with 
whom it may be indulged. The widest meaning of the 
word luguta is thus profoundly different from luguta (i), 
the carrier of the supreme taboo. 

Thus, starting from the individual relationships within 
the household and following the kinship extensions in the 
life history of the individual, we have arrived at the same 
results as in our discussion of clanship and the general 
prohibitions of exogamy and incest. The word luguta is 
one term of a dichotomy separating women into "for- 
bidden" and "lawful." 

The other term tahugu ("lawful woman") also origi- 
nates within the family and is extended thence. To fol- 
low this process we must turn to the other side of the 
pedigree and examine the paternal relations. 

The most important person on the father's side is ob- 
viously the father himself. Here we meet the second 
fundamental fact in household morality: though the 
father is not a kinsman of his children, sexual intercourse 
between father and daughter, though it occurs, is not only 
illegal and improper, but is viewed with definite moral 
repugnance. Marriage between father and daughter is 
not allowed nor even imaginable to the native. 

Perhaps the most important case on record of the vio- 
lation of this taboo is that of Kumatala, of the sub-clan 
next in rank to the Tabalu (the Mwauri of the Lubuka 



clan), who is headman of the village of Liluta. He is 
known to live with his beautiful eldest daughter Bodo- 
gupo'u. Another recorded case is that of the famous sor- 
cerer Piribomatu, also of very high rank, who "comes to" 
or "approaches," as the natives put it, his daughter 
Bokaylola. It is consistent with native theory that, 
morally, the natives do not distinguish between a man's 
real daughter and his stepdaughter, and have no special 
term for the latter relationship. For since his relation to 
the child is determined through the mother and since 
incest is prohibited because of her, it is equally wrong to 
have intercourse with any of her offspring, whether of 
the present or of a previous marriage. 

Thus Budiya, headman of Kabululo, married a widow 
who had a daughter named Bodulela: 

Matauna imwoyki Bodulelay sene gciga haysey 
This man comes to Bodulela, very bad this, 
hoge latula minana, Isuvi wahwalay 

already child his this female. He enters in house, 
mmana hoge iliku dahela 

this (female) already undoes skirt herj 

ikanufwagegay igise matauna 

she reclines with legs apart, he sees this (male) 
wtla — ikaya, 
cunnus — he copulates. 

This means: The man happened to enter the hut when 
his stepdaughter had taken off her fibre petticoat for the 
night and was lying, perhaps already half asleep, in a 



tempting position. Stirred by this, Budiya succumbed and 
committed the reprehensible act. 

In this version, the cause of incest is ascribed to an un- 
toward accident, but other accounts maintain that Budiya 
had long desired his stepdaughter, that she refused him, 
and that he seduced her by love magic. Love magic also 
is said to have been used by Gumabudi, headman of 
Yalumugwa, who used to cohabit regularly with his real 
daughter. The latter, Bulubwaloga, we have already 
met, for she was the wife of Gilayviyaka, one of the sons 
of the paramount chief, and she left her husband after 
he had committed adultery with one of his father's wives. 

As we have said, the reasons given for the moral rep- 
rehensibility of intercourse between father and daughter 
are all connected with his marriage to the mother and his 
position in the household. Sene gaga fela hoge iva^i inala, 
hoge iyousi vilakuria — "very bad, because already he mar- 
ried her mother. Already he caught hold of the first 
marriage present" (see ch. iv, sec. 3). Again, a man 
should not sleep with his daughter, since it was his duty 
to be tender to her when she was a child, to take her in his 
arms. Gala tamasisi deli latuda, fela tamala iyohwayliy 
ikopo'i — "We do not sleep with children ours (daugh- 
ters), because her father (the father) fondles, takes into 
his arms." Or the natives point out that, as the father 
has control of his daughter's marriage and love affairs, he 
must not sleep with her. 

The cases of father-and-daughter incest just mentioned 
were universally known, but they were spoken of with 
great discretion and never before the people concerned. 



Should a man guilty of such a crime be publicly told about 
it, he would have to commit suicide by jumping from a 
tree, say the natives. 

It must be clearly understood that, although father-to- 
daughter incest is regarded as bad, it is not described by 
the word suvasova (clan exogamy or incest), nor does 
any disease follow upon it 3 and, as we know, the whole 
ideology underlying this taboo is different from that of 

The anomalous extension of the word for father {tama) 
to the father's sister's son is important, for it demonstrates 
the influence which language has upon customs and ideas. 
Marriage and intercourse with the male paternal first 
cousin is not strictly forbidden, but it is regarded some- 
what askance. It is perhaps least censured among the 
Malasi of Kiriwinaj and natives from other districts, who 
lose no opportunity of slandering their neighbours when 
a difference in custom allows of it, speak derisively of the 
people of Kiriwina "who marry their fathers and sleep 
with them." An ethnographer, ignorant of language and 
superficially acquainted with native customs and ideas, 
might speak about the natives' "horror of marriage and 
intercourse with a father in the classificatory sense" j and 
thus imply that they do not distinguish between father as 
"mother's husband" and father as "father's sister's son." 
Such a statement would be quite incorrect. 

A man is not allowed to have intercourse with his 
daughter because she is his wife's nearest kinswoman j 
therefore we might expect to find that the wife's other 
near female kindred are also tabooed. This is actually 



the case. A strong taboo is placed on a wife's sisters, 
whom, strangely enough, the man calls by the same two 
names (according to age) which he applies to his elder 
and younger brothers and which a woman uses to her 
elder and younger sisters: tuwagu and bwadagu. Thus 
here a man uses towards persons of the opposite sex 
names which indicate identity of sex. Analogously a 
woman addresses these same two terms to her husband's 
elder and younger brothers, with whom sexual inter- 
course is forbidden. There are a few recorded cases of 
this rule's transgression, the most notorious being that of 
Manimuwa and Dakiya already quoted (ch. vi, sec. i). 
Here, again, although the word suvasova is not applied 
to the taboo, the natives feel strongly against intercourse 
with a wife's sister, who, after marriage, becomes to him 
somewhat like his own sister. A man must also abstain 
from intercourse with his wife's mother, but otherwise no 
taboo of avoidance exists. 

By careful inquiry of several informants and by direct 
observation, I have compiled the following table of sex 
taboos in order of stringency. It is meant rather to facili- 
tate a survey of the whole subject than to establish any 
rigid gradations. 

1. By far the most stringent is the prohibition on 
brother-sister incest 5 it is the core of the suvasova taboo, 
and is of very rare occurrence either in reality or legend. 

2. Incest with the mother is regarded as unnatural and 
unthinkable 5 there are no cases on record; it is an impor- 
tant form of suvasova; it is not spoken of with the same 
abhorrence as brother-sister incest. 



3. Sexual intercourse with the own daughter is not 
called suvasova; it is not sanctioned by supernatural pen- 
alties 5 it is felt to be extremely bad 3 there are several 
cases on record. 

4. Intercourse with the mother's sister's daughter is a 
form of suvasova; it is of rare occurrence j it is regarded 
as very bad and always kept secret 5 on discovery it is 
severely penalized. 

5. Intercourse with the wife's sister is not a form of 
suvasova, but it is considered badj marriage, whether in 
the form of polygamy or with a deceased wife's sister, is 
strongly disapproved of, but it does occur, while intrigues 
are not infrequent. 

6. Intercourse with the mother-in-law or with the 
brother's wife is not proper, though it is not suvasova, 
and it probably occurs but infrequently. 

7. Intercourse with the "classificatory" luguta (my 
sister) is suvasova: it is prohibited by legal doctrine and 
sanctioned by supernatural penalties 5 it is, however, fre- 
quently practised, and is, so to speak, at a premium. 

An interesting commentary upon such gradations is 
contained in the following statement: latugu tatougu — 
sene agu mwasila; tuwagu, bwadagu — ulo kwava tuwala, 
bwadala — agu mwasila. Tabuda, kadada, latuda o fayo- 
mlU gala tamwasila; which may be freely translated: 
"My child truly mine — ^very much my shame j ^elder 
brother,' Vounger brother' (as I call them) — ^that is my 
wife's elder sister, her younger sister — my shame. Grand- 
children, maternal nieces, children — all these in the classi- 
iicatory sense, we are not ashamed of." Here we have 



certain gradations recognized and expressed by the na- 
tives, and it is characteristic that, in such a volunteered 
statement, my informant would not mention the classi- 
ficatory sister. That would not have been quite proper. 
Another commentary is contained in the fact that, whereas 
a man would swear at his mother, kwoy inam "have inter- 
course with thy mother" (j/V), or might invite her to have 
intercourse with her father {kwoy tamam)^ he would 
never swear at his sister, and he would never swear at his 
daughter. Yet, as I have no doubt that incest between 
mother and son is far rarer than that between father and 
daughter, I have put it in the second and not in the third 

One important relationship still remains, that called 
tahugUy father's sister, or father's sister's daughter, which 
has already been mentioned as the opposite category cor- 
related with that of lugutUy sister (man speaking). The 
father's sister is the prototype of the lawful, and even 
sexually recommended woman j that is, in the theory of 
native tradition, for, in reality, it is her daughter that 
really plays this part. 

To the father's sister exactly the opposite attitude with 
regard to sexual behaviour is sanctioned and approved, to 
that which must be adopted towards the sister. Sexual 
intercourse with the father's own sister is emphatically 
right and proper. "It is very well when the boy copu- 
lates with his father's sister." The natives are never tired 
of repeating this moral maxim, and they use, in this con- 
text, the coarse term kayta^ instead of the polite circum- 
locution masisi deli (sleep together), or mwoyki (come to, 



visit). Her presence always carries with it the suggestion 
of licence, of indecent jokes and improper stories. In 
bawdy ditties, the refrain: dell sidayasSy deli tahumayase 
(with our companions, with our paternal aunts) is of fre- 
quent occurrence. The paternal aunt and the sister must 
never be in the same company, since the first relaxes the 
bonds of propriety and the second constrains them. 

Sexual intercourse, however, between a man and his 
paternal aunt, is important theoretically, symbolically and 
verbally rather than in actual life. She represents to him 
the class of lawful women and sexual freedom in general. 
She might be used to advise or even to procure for himj 
with herself, however, sexual intercourse is not frequently 
practised. She belongs to a previous generation, and, as 
a rule, what remains of her sexual endowment is not at- 
tractive. But whenever she and her nephews desire it, 
they are allowed to sleep together, preserving only a cer- 
tain decorum when she is married. Marriage with the 
paternal aunt, though permissible and even desirable, 
seems never to occur: it was impossible for me to find a 
single instance of it among living people or in historical 

The real practical substitute for his paternal aunt, the 
boy finds in her daughter. The two are regarded by tra- 
dition as specially suited for intercourse and for marriage. 
They are often engaged to each other by infant betrothal 
(see ch. iv, sec. 4). The natives will say that the paternal 
cross-cousin should be the first person, if age allows, with 
whom a boy should copulate. 

The term, however, soon becomes extended to other 


girls belonging to the same sub-clan and clan. Finally 
by an extension which goes beyond the usual limits of 
classificatory terminology, it becomes synonymous with 
"all women not of the same clan as the sister." It should 
be realized that the ordinary extensions of classificatory 
terminology go only to the limits of the clan. The widest 
sense in which the word for mother is used embraces all 
the women of the mother's clan. But the word tahugUy 
in its meaning of "lawful woman," extends over three 
clans, and embraces roughly three-quarters of female hu- 
manity, in contrast to the one-quarter which is forbidden. 
But this subject — the intricacies of the kinship system and 
of the kinship nomenclature — leads us beyond the limits 
of the present inquiry, and will have to be deferred to the 
future publication already mentioned. 

The keynote to sexual morality and sexual freedom 
lies, as we have found, in the opposition between the 
two classes designated by luguta and tabugu ("sister" and 
"paternal cross-cousin") respectively. The taboo against 
incest between brother and sister is the most important 
and most dramatic feature of the Trobriand social organi- 
zation \ the more so because of a singular rift in traditional 
doctrine, a dogmatic inconsistency, which makes love and 
the magic of love derive from brother and sister incest. 
To the account of this important myth we shall now pro- 
ceed in the last chapter. 




The so-called savage has always been a plaything to 
civilized man — in practice a convenient instrument of ex- 
ploitation, in theory a provider of sensational thrills. 
Savagery has been, for the reading public of the last 
three centuries, a reservoir of unexpected possibilities in 
human nature 3 and the savage has had to adorn this or 
that a friori hypothesis by becoming cruel or noble, licen- 
tious or chaste, cannibalistic or humane according to what 
suited the observer or the theory. 

As a matter of fact, the savage with whom we became 
acquainted in Melanesia does not conform to any picture 
in black and white, in deep shadow or vivid light. His 
life is socially hedged round on all sides, his morality 
more or less on a level with that of the average European 
— that is if the customs of the latter were as frankly de- 
scribed as those of the Trobriander. The institutions 
which allow of some prenuptial intercourse and even 
favour it, show little to suggest any previous conditions 
of unbridled promiscuity or of an institution such as 
"group-marriage," so difficult to conceive in terms of any 
known social facts. 

Such forms of licence as we find in the Trobriands fit 
so well into the scheme of individual marriage, the fam- 
ily, the clan, and the local group — and they fulfil certain 


functions so adequately that there remains nothing serious 
or incomprehensible to explain away by reference to some 
hypothetical earlier stage. They exist to-day because 
they work well side by side with marriage and family j 
nay, for the benefit of marriage and family j and there is 
no need to assume any other causes for their past than 
those which maintain them at present. They existed 
probably always for the same reason — in a slightly dif- 
ferent form, no doubt, but built on the same funda- 
mental pattern. This, at least, is my theoretical attitude 
towards these facts. 

It is as important to bear in mind, however, that the 
limitations, taboos, and moral rules are by no means abso- 
lutely rigid, slavishly obeyed or automatic in their action. 
As we have seen again and again the rules of sex are fol- 
lowed only in an approximate manner, leaving a generous 
margin for infringements 3 and the forces which make for 
law and order show a great deal of elasticity. Thus the 
savage, measured by standards of sesthetics, morality, and 
manners, displays the same human frailties, imperfections, 
and strivings as a member of any civilized community. 
He does not lend himself either to the straightforward 
descriptive shocker, or to use as a clue for a detective story 
on the sexual past of the promiscuous pithecanthropus. 
In fact, as I see him, he will in no way lend himself to 
quench our thirst for reconstructive sexual sensationalism. 

Nevertheless, the story of Trobriand sexual life does 
not lack altogether certain dramatic elements 5 certain con- 
trasts and contradictions which might almost excite hopes 
of finding something really "inexplicable," something 



which might justify plunging into frank hypotheses, into 
phantastic visions of past evolution or cultural history. 
Perhaps the most dramatic element in the tradition of the 
natives is the myth about brother-and-sister incest, asso- 
ciated with the power of the magic of love. 

As we know, among all rules and taboos there is one 
which has a really strong hold over native imagination 
and moral sense j and yet this unmentionable crime is the 
subject of one of their sacred stories and the basis of love 
magic, and thus is directed, so to speak, into the full cur- 
rent of tribal life. Here, at first sight, is an almost in- 
credible inconsistency in belief and in moral tradition, one 
which might allow us to brand the natives as deprived of 
moral sense, or prove them to be in the "prelogical stage 
of mental development" 5 or else might be used to dem- 
onstrate the survival of marriage between brother and 
sister, or the co-existence of two cultural strata, one in 
which brother-and-sister unions are approved and the 
other in which they are tabooed. Unfortunately, the bet- 
ter we learn to understand the facts about the myth of 
incest and its cultural context, the less sensational, in- 
credible, and immoral appear this and similar contradic- 
tions in custom and tradition j the less do they clamour for 
explanation in hypotheses about the "savage soul," pithe- 
canthropi or "Kulturkreise" j and we find ourselves able 
instead to account for them in terms of contemporary and 
observable fact. But I have indulged long enough in 
reflections of a theoretical, not to say philosophic and 
moral nature 5 and now I must return to my humbler and 
soberer task of faithful and dispassionate chronicler. 




Love, the power of attraction, the mysterious charm 
that comes forth from a woman to a man or from a man 
to a woman and produces the obsession of a single desire, 
is, as we know, attributed by the natives to one main 
source: the magic of love. ^ 

In the Trobriands, most important systems of magic 
are founded on myth. The origin of man's power over 
rain and windj of his ability to control the fertility of the 
soil and the movements of fishj of the sorcerer's destruc- 
tive or healing powers — all these are traced back to cer- 
tain primeval occurrences which, to the natives, account 
for man's capacity to wield magic. Myth does not fur- 
nish an explanation in terms of logical or empirical cau- 
sality. It moves in a special order of reality peculiar to 
dogmatic thought, and it contains rather a warrant of 
magical efficiency, a charter of its secret and traditional 
nature than an intellectual answer to the scientific why. 
The facts narrated in myth and the ideas which underlie 
it, colour and influence native belief and behaviour. The 
events of a remote past are re-lived in actual experience.^ 
This is especially important in the myth we are discussing, 
since its basic idea is that magic is so powerful that it can 
even break down the barrier of the strongest moral taboo. 
This influence of the past over the present is so strong 

1 A fuller analysis of this functional view of myth will be found in the 
writer's Myth in Primitive Psychology, in Argonauts of the Western 
Pacific, ch. xii ; and in Sex and Repression, pt. ii. 



that the myth generates its own replicas and is often 
used to excuse and explain certain otherwise inexcusable 
breaches of tribal law. 

We have already spoken about the several systems of 
love magicj and pointed out that the two most important 
ones are associated with two local centres, Iwa and Kumi- 
labwaga, which are united by a myth of the origin of their 

This is the story of the myth as I obtained it from in- 
formants of Kumilabwaga, the locality where the tragic 
events took place/ 

I shall first give the narrative in a free but faithful 
translation, and then give the commentary as received 
from my informant. The numbers will allow the reader 
to compare this rendering with the native text, and with 
the word for word translation, which together form the 
substance of the next section. 

The Myth 

(i) The source (of love and magic) is Kumilabwaga. 
(2) A woman there brought forth two children, a girl and 
a boy. (3) The mother came (and settled down) to cut 
her fibre skirt j the boy cooked magical herbs (for the 
magic of love). (4) He cooked aromatic leaves in coco- 
nut oil. (5) He hung the vessel with the fluid (on a 
batten of the roof near the door) and went away to bathe. 
(6) The sister arrived from her firewood breaking expe- 

1 In another place, Sex and Repression, I have published a condensed 
and somewhat simplified version of the myth which, as I find, suri:ered 
slightly in the process. The version here given, with its full native text 
and two English translations, must be regarded as the full and correct 



dition, she put down the firewood j she asked the mother: 
"Fetch me some water, which my brother has put. in the 
house." (7) The mother answered: "You go and fetch 
it yourself 2 my Jegs are burdened with the board on which 
I cut the skirt." 

( 8 ) The girl entered the hut, she saw the water-bottles 
lying there 3 with her head she brushed against the vessel 
with the magic fluid j the coco-nut oil dripped j it trickled 
into her hairj she passed her hands over it, wiped it off, 
and smelt it. (9) Then the power of magic struck her, 
it entered her inside, it turned her mind. (lo) She went 
and fetched the water, she brought it back and put it 
down. (11) She asked her mother: "And what about my 
brother? (Where has the man gone?)" — The mother 
gave voice: "O my children, they have become mad! He 
has gone to the open seashore." 

(12) The girl ran out, she sped towards the eastern 
shore, to the open sea. (13) She came to where the road 
abuts on the sea beach. There she untied her fibre skirt 
and flung it down. (14) She ran along the beach nakedj 
she ran to the Bokaraywata beach (the place where the 
Kumilabwaga people usually bathe, and where they beach 
their canoes). (15) She came upon her brother there — 
he bathed in the Kadi'usawasa passage in the fringing 
reef. (16) She saw him bathing, she entered the water 
and went towards him, she gave him chase. (17) She 
chased him towards the rock of Kadilawolu. There he 
turned and ran back. (18) She chased him back and he 
went to the Olakawo rock. There he turned round and 
came back running. (19) He came back and went again 
to the Kadi'usawasa passage (i.e. where he was bathing 
first). There she caught him, there they lay down in the 
shallow water. 

(20) They lay there (and copulated), then they went 



ashore and they copulated again. They climbed the slope, 
they went to the grotto of Bokaraywata, there they lay 
down again and copulated. (21) They remained there 
together and slept. (22) They did not eat, they did not 
drink — this is the reason why they died (because of shame, 
because of remorse). 

(23) That night a man of Iwa had a dream. He 
dreamt the dream of their sulumwoya (the mint plant 
which they used in their love magic). (24) "O my 
dream! Two people, brother and sister are together j I 
see in my mind 3 they lie by each other in the grotto of 
Bokaraywata." (25) He paddled over the sea arm of 
Galeyaj he paddled to Kitava, and moored his canoe — he 
searched all over — but nothing was to be found. (26) 
He paddled over the sea arm of Da'uya, he came to 
Kumilabwaga, he paddled towards the shore, he landed. 
He saw a bird, a frigate-bird with its companions — they 

(27) He went and climbed the slope 5 he went and saw 
them dead. (28) And lo! a mint flower had sprouted 
through their breasts. He sat by their prostrate bodies, 
then he went along the shore. (29) He looked for the 
road, he searched and found it, he went to the village. 

(30) He entered the village — there was the mother sit- 
ting and cutting her fibre skirt. He spoke: "Do you 
know what has happened by the sea?" "My children 
went there and copulated and shame overcame them." 

(31) He spoke and said: "Come, recite the magic, so that 
I may hear it." (32) She recited, she went on reciting, 
he listened, he heard till he had learnt it completely. He 
learnt it right through to the end. (33) He came again, 
and asked: "What is the magical song of the coco-nut 
oil?" (34) He inquired, that man from Iwa. "Come 
now, tell me the song of the coco-nut oil." 



(35) She recited it to the end. Then he said: "Remain 
here, I shall go. Part of the magic, the opening part, let 
it remain here. The eye of the magic, the finishing part, 
I shall take, and let it be called Kayro'iwa." (36) He 
went off, he came to the grotto, to the sulumwoya plant 
which sprouted and grew out of their breasts. (37) He 
broke off a sprig of the herb, he put it into his canoe, he 
sailed, he brought it to Kitava. (38) He went ashore in 
Kitava and rested there. He then sailed and landed in 

(39) These are his words (which he spoke in Iwa): "I 
have brought here the point of the magic, its eye (the 
sharpest, that is, the most efficient part of the magic). Let 
us call it the Kayro'iwa. The foundation, or the lower 
part (the less important part) the Kaylakawa remains in 
Kumilabwaga." (Henceforth the words of the speaker 
refer not to Iwa, but to Kumilabwaga. This is obviously 
an inconsistency, because in the myth he is speaking m 
Iwa. This probably was due to the faulty recital of the 
myth.) (40) The water of this magic is Bokaraywataj 
its sea passage Kadi'usawasa. There (on the beach) stands 
its silasila bush, there stands its givagavela bush. (41) If 
people from the lagoon villages would come to bathe (in 
the waterhole or in the sea passage), then the bushes 
would bleed. (42) This water is taboo to them — the 
youth of our village only should come and bathe in it. 
(43) But a fish caught in these waters is taboo to them 
(the young people of our village). When such a fish is 
caught in the nets, they should cut off its tail, then the 
old people might eat it. (44) Of a bunch of coco-nuts 
washed on the beach, they (the young people) must not 
eat a single one — it is a taboc. Only old men and old 
women may eat them. 

(45) When they come and bathe in the Bokaraywata 
and then return to the beach, they make a hole in the sand 



and say some magic. (46) Later on in their sleep they 
dream of the fish. They dream that the fish spring (out; 
of the sea) and come into that pooL (47) Nose to nose 
the fish swim. If there is only one fish they would throw 
it out into the sea. (48) When there are two, one female,, 
one male, the youth would wash in this water. Going to* 
the village, he would get hold of a woman and sleep with, 
her. (49) He would go on sleeping with her and make 
arrangements with her family so that they might marry. 
This is the happy end, they would live together and make 
their gardens. 

(50) If an outsider would come here for the sake of 
the magic, he would bring a magical payment in the form 
of a valuable. (51) He would bring it and give it to 
you, you might give him the charm: (52) the spells of 
the isika^i leaves, of the betel pod, of the washing charm^ 
of the smoking charm, of the stroking charm 5 you might 
give him also the charm of the obsidian blade, of the coco- 
nut, of the silasiluy of the buresi leaves, of the coco-nut 
husk fibre, of the gimgwam leaves, of the yototu leaves, 
of the comb — and for all this, they ought to pay the sub- 
stantial payment of laga. 

{S?>) For this is the erotic payment of your magic. 
Then let them return home, and eat pigs, yams, ripe 
betel-nut, yellow betel-nut, red bananas, sugar cane. 
(54) For they have brought you valuables, food, betel- 
nut as a present, {ss) I^or yo^ are the masters of this 
magic, and you may distribute it. You remain here, they 
may carry it away 5 and you, the owners, remain here, for 
you are the foundation of this magic. 

This myth really accounts, not for the origin of love 
magic, but for its transfer from Kitava to Iwa. Its most 
important cultural function, however, is that, being be- 



lieved, it establishes a valid precedent for the efficiency 
of love magic 5 it proves that the spells and rites of Iwa 
and of Kumilabwaga are so powerful that they can even 
break down the terrible barriers which separate brother 
and sister and persuade them to commit incest. 

Let us now retrace the narrative and insert a few com- 
ments upon certain obscure points. The additions to the 
text obtained from the narrator are indicated by numbers 
referring to the subsequent native text. 

With reference to the relative age of the two children, 
my informant said: (s^) "The man was the eldest child, 
and the woman followed." The family belonged to the 
Malasi clan, which, as we know already, is reputed to 
have a special propensity for breaking exogamous and 
incestuous prohibitions. To quote my native commen- 
tator: (57) "See, the Malasi marry their kinsfolk. There 
was one man in Wawela, a man by the name of Bigayuwo, 
who married Nab way era (a kinswoman of his) j one man 
in Vakuta^ one man in Kitava, by name of Pwaygasi, who 
married Bosilasila." These names, which I have heard 
only from this informant, might be added to the other 
case previously recorded (ch. xii, sec. 4), in which a 
Malasi man married a Malasi woman. 

To return to the myth, it is clear that the natives take 
it for granted that the Malasi of Kumilabwaga knew the 
magic already. As a matter of fact, most magic is im- 
agined to have existed from the beginning of time, and 
to have been brought by each sub-clan from underground. 
The story of the accidental smelling of the charmed oil 





\] Wahcr 

fiock ^^ 

i ^ 



Passage in reef 
called Madi 'usawasa 

\ ^ 

Fig. 4. — ^The Beach of Kumilabwaga 


receives dramatic piquancy from the part played by the 
mother. Had she gone into the house herself and brought 
water to her daughter, the tragedy would never have oc- 
curred. She, the very source of the matrilineal kinship 
bond, she from whose womb the two children sprang, she 
is also the involuntary cause of the tragedy. It is inter- 
esting to note that here, as in most mythological and leg- 
endary incidents, the man remains passive and the woman 
is the aggressor. We find analogies to this in the stories 
about Kaytalugi, in the behaviour of the women during 
the Yausa, and in the reception given by female spirits to 
newcomers in the next world. Eve also gives the apple 
to Adam, and Isolde holds out the drink to Tristan. 

The description of the actual fall is given in clear but 
somewhat sober terms. To the natives, however, who 
know well the beautiful setting of open sea, steep white 
coral cliffs festooned with tropical foliage, and the dark, 
mysterious grotto hidden among old overhanging trees, 
,this part of the narrative means more than is contained 
in the mere words. The myth speaks to them in terms 
of a familiar landscape and of many love experiences 
which have taken place in just such surroundings. 

The narrative lacks, as usual, any explicit allusion to 
the psychology of the actors. I was able to obtain 
the following commentary: (58) "The man saw her: she 
had no skirt on 5 he was frightened, he ran: the woman 
chased him. (59) But then the desire was born ii^iside 
him J it upset his mind, and they copulated." And again: 
(61) "Already his passion was kindled inside 5 he desired 
her with his whole bodyj (62) they copulatedj they ca- 



ressedj they erotically scratched each other." Thus when 
the man found himself pursued, he succumbed to passion 
and then he felt the pangs of love as strongly as did his 

The description of the pursuit and fall will be more 
easily understood with the help of the sketch (Fig. IV), 
in which the main topographical features of the beach are 
shown. The brother bathes in the narrow canoe passage 
facing the centre of the beach. On seeing his sister ap- 
proach naked, he makes for the shore and then runs along 
the water-line from one of the enclosing rocks to the other. 
After the fall, they move to the grotto, and there remain 
until their sad and romantic death. On this map are also 
indicated the two wells of which we shall hear presently. 

After the two have copulated, they remain, consumed 
by passion, and yet bowed down with shame, until death 
ends their love and brings them freedom. (63) "They 
did not eat anything, they did not drink at all, since they 
had no desire. Shame has come over them, because they 
have committed incest, brother with sister." The motive 
of love and death is juxtaposed here, crudely and clumsily, 
and yet as dramatically as native language and imagina- 
tion permit. The picture of the two enlaced in death with 
the symbol of love, the aromatic mint, springing from 
their bodies is full of primitive beauty. 

With the death of the lovers the real drama comes to 
an end, and what follows has only a dogmatic and didactic 
connection with the first act. But the somewhat pedantic 
account of the adventures and doings of the man from 
Iwa — above all, of how he learnt the magic and how he 



laid down the rules for its practice, is of great sociological 
interest, because the pragmatic value of myth and its 
normative importance for native belief and behaviour are 
largely contained therein. 

Who the man of Iwa was, whether of the same clan 
as the brother and sister, whether their friend or a magi- 
cian, none of my informants could say: and unfortunately 
I was not able to discuss the matter with anyone from the 
island of Iwa itself. 

Why the frigate-birds enter into the myth also remains 
somewhat mysterious, for they are not associated with the 
Malasi clan or with love-making. I was told: (64) "They 
go where they smell human beings." With regard to the 
somewhat cryptic insistence (verse 33) of the Iwa man 
to obtain the spell or charm (called in the text wosi, 
"song," and not by the usual word yopa, "spell"), I was 
told by my informant that there is a magic of coco-nut oil 
somewhat different from the one performed while the oil 
is being boiled out of the coco-nut. This spell is not in- 
dispensable to the system of love magic, and it must not 
be confused with that chanted over the aromatic herbs 
boiled in the already made coco-nut oil. This spell will 
be found in the next section, in verses 6$ and 66. I have 
already indicated in the narrative that the last verses of 
the myth (from 40 on) should be taken as addressed to 
the community of Kumilabwaga and not to that of Iwa 5 
and that this inconsistency was probably due to my nar- 
rator's clumsy way of telling the tale. He was perfectly 
well aware, when questioned, that the details as to what 
people in Kumilabwaga should do were of no great im- 



portance on the distant island o£ Iwa. But he was not 
prepared to change his narrative in any way. 

It may be noted that, in these days, Iwa is far more 
famous for love magic than the parent community, and 
that the myth still tries to claim certain ancient rites of the 
magic for Kumilabwaga, to which it belongs. In the last 
paragraph we have incidentally a description of certain 
elements essential in this magic 5 we learn that it is asso- 
ciated in a mystic and mythological manner with the pas- 
sage in the fringing reef, with the sea-water of the beach 
and with the wells upon it. In fact, bathing in the surf 
on that shore improves the personal appearance. (69) 
"In the reef passage of Kadi'usawasa, we, the male and 
female youth of Kumilabwaga, bathe and our counte- 
nances clear up and become beautiful." A similar effect 
is produced by bathing in the two wells of brackish water 
which lie at the foot of the cliffs, under the grotto of 
Bokaraywata. But here there is a division of sexes. 
(70) "Bokaraywata is the man's water j the woman's 
water is called Momkitava. (71) Should we (boys) 
drink of that (that is, the woman's water) our hair would 
become grey." In fact, if either sex bathe in the other's 
pool or drink the water, their looks will be impaired. 

The story of the two small fish (verses 46-48) is not 
quite clear, and the comment which I received from my 
informant was practically a repetition of his original state- 
ment, and does not make it any more intelligible (see 
below, verses 72 and 73 in the native text). 



An interesting point in the last few verses of the myth 
is the insistence on the economic side of the transaction in 
love magic. It is a further example of the natives' in- 
terest in repayment and reciprocity. It must be noted, 
however, that it has more than a merely economic impor- 
tance 5 it symbolizes also the prestige of the community 
as masters in magic, and is rather a tribute to their im- 
portance, than a mere reward for services rendered. A 
careful comparison of the free rendering with the word- 
for-word translation given below the native text will show 
that certain commentaries have been implicitly introduced 
into the former. I cannot enter into a justification of 
every one of such implicit comments, for this would lead 
to too elaborate linguistic discussion. 


(i) U'ula 


She quicken with 




mother their j 


He cook coco-nut oil 


She come, 
he cook 


Kumilabwaga, (2) 

tayta vwila, tayta 

one woman, one 

itata^i doha 

she cut fibre skirt 

ka^l mataund. (4) 

leaves this man. 

kwoywaga leaveSo 


(5) Isouyay 

He hang, 
She come however 


she dumps, 

"Thou bring there 
(7) Ikayhiga: 
She speak: 

ila matauna ikakaya. (6) 

he go this man he bathe. 

luletay iwota ka^iy 

sister his, she break wood, 



mother their 
kola soft 
his water 


"Thou bring there, 

she tell: 

brother mine." 
wala hoge 
just already 

ikanaki kaydawaga kaykegu.^^ 

it lie at trimming board leg mine." 
(8) Isuvi rmnana vivilay 

She come out this woman^ 

soft; iwori kululay ibusi 

water j it flick hair her, it drop 


it drop on 


she smell. 


in inside her, 


she get water, 


She ask 


Speech her: 

hair her, 

(9) Boge 

it do 

she do 


arm her, 
iwoyey boge 

it strike, already 

nanola. (lo) 

mind her. 
mayey iseyeli. 

she bring, she put down. 
inala: ^^Mtage lugutaP^ 

mother her: "Indeed brother mine?" 

"O latugwa boge 

"O children mine already 


it lie here 
coco-nut oil, 
she wipe, 
it went 
She go 



inagowasil Boge layla waluma,^^ 

they are mad! Already he went in open sea." 
(12) Ivabusiy ilokeya waluma, (13) 

She come out, she go to in open sea. 
Ivabusi okadu^u*ulay ilikwo dahela^ 

She come out end of road, she untie fibre skirt her^ 
iseyemwo, (14) Ivayayri namwaduy 

she put down it. She follow the shore naked, 

ila B okaraywata. (15) Hoki luletdy 

she go to Bokaraywata. She go to brother her, 

ikakaya Kadi^usawasa, (16) Ikikakaya, 

he bathe Kadi'usawasa. He bathe, 

ivabusi y layla y ibokavili. (i?) Ibokaviliy 

she come out, he went, she chase. She chase, 

ila^o o Kadilawolu papafa; itoyewOy 

she make go to Kadilawolu rockj he reverse, 

ila. (18) Ibokaviliy ila OlakawOy 

he go. She chase, he go to Olakawo, 

itoyewOy ikaymala. (19) Ikaymalay 

he reverse, he bring back. He bring back, 

ila o KadPusawasay iyousiy ikanarise 

he go in Kadi'usawasa, she take hold, they lie down 
wala obwarita. (20) Ikanukwenusiy ikammaynagwasiy 
just in sea. They lie, they go to shore, 

ivind*asi imwoynasiy ilousi Bokaraywata 

they finish they climb, they go to Bokaraywata 
o dubwadebula ikenusi, (21) Ikanukwenusiy 

in grotto they lie. They remain lying, 



imasisisL (22) Gala 
they sleep. No 

u^ula ikarigasL 
reason they die. 
(23) Aybogi 

Night time 
inhabitant of Iwaj 
sulumwoya, (24) ^^0/ 

mint plant. "O! 

tomwotay kasitayyu 
humans, they two together 
odubwadebula Bokaraywata 

in grotto Bokaraywata 

Iwola GaleyUy i^ulawola; 

He paddle Galeya, he paddle j 
waga, ine^iy inenei 

canoe, he search, 
(26) Iwola 

He paddle 

he see however 
comrades his 

ikamkwamsiy gala 
they eat, no 

magical effect 

imimi kirisala 

he dream 

they drink, 


it approach 

mind mine 

magical effect 
gumimiy tayyu 

my dream, two people 
sister his, 

ikenusir?'* (25) 

they lie." 
Kitavay ikota 

on Kitava, he anchor 
— gala. 
he go on searching — no. 

he paddle on, 
maunay daiUa 
bird, frigate-bird 

they soar. 


he come here 
he disembark, 
together with 

(27) Imway 

He come here. 

he climb. 

he go. 

he see, 



ikatuviliy igise, boge ikarigeyavisi, (28) 

he overturn, he see, already they die. 
U! laysusmaga sulumwoya ovatikosi; 

Lo! he sprouted however mint-plant in chest theirs j 
isisUy ikanukwenusiy ivayariga. (29) 

he sit, they lie, he skirt shore however. 

Inene^i keda^ ine^i ihaniy ikammaynagwa 

He search road, he search he find, he go to 
o valu. (30) Ikasobusiy mmana isisu 

in village. He drop out, this woman she sit 

itataH dob a; ikaybiga: "Avaka okwadewoP^^ 

she cut fibre skirt; he speak: "What in sea-shore?" 
^^Latugwa aylosiy ikaytasiy ivagi 

"Children mine they went, they copulate, he do 
kasi fnwasila.'^ (31) lUvalay ikaybiga: 

their shame." He say, he speak: 

^^Kumay kukwa^u megway alaga?^ 

"Thou come here, thou recite magic, I hear." 

(32) IkawOy ikikawOy ilagay isisawOy 

She recites, she re-recites, he hear, he learn, 
ivina^Uy isawo; isisawOy ivinakuy 

he finish, he learn; he learn thoroughly, he finish, 
imwOy imuriy kaysisula. {2>?>) ^'f^ifJ^'Mriy 

he come here, he shift, seat his. He shift then, 

igigse iwokwOy ikaybiga: ^^Kuneta 

he see it finish, he speak: "Coco-nut cream 

kakariwosila?^^ (34) Ikatufowiy ilivalay 

magical song his?" He ask, he say, 




this man 


thou come here 


inhabitant of Iwa: 
thou say!" 

"Song his 

Ilivala boge 

She say already 
^^BukusisUy balaga; 

she finish, 

he speak: 


"Thou might sit, I might go however j magic herb base 


magic herb of Kawa 

fnatala bala^o 

eye his I might carry 

{'^6) Ivabusiy iwoki 

He drop out, he approach there 




in chest their, 


He break off, he load at 

Kitava, (38) Pulawolay 

Kitava. He paddle on, 

iwaywosi; iulawolay 

he rest 5 he paddle. 

he sprout. 




mint plant (special variety). 
he paddle. 

thou might put here, 
magic herb of Iwa." 
he stand 



he disembark 

he disembark 

he carry 

(39) Kawala: 
Speech his: 
I brought here, 

"Eye his 



magical herb of Iwa 
magic herb of Kawa 


ikanawo Kumilabwaga. (40) Sopila 

he lie there Kumilabwaga. Water his 

Bokaraywata, kartkedala K adieus aw as a; silasila 
Bokaraywata, passage his Kadi'usawasa, silasila plant 
itomwOy givagavela komwo, 

it stand here, givagavela plant it stand here. 

(41) Kidama taytala bhnayse odumdom, 

Supposing one man they might come in lagoon, 
ikakayasiy boge bibuyavu (42) Botnala 

they bathe, already he might bleed. Taboo his 

sisofi — bimaysey gudi^ova^Uy 

their water — they might come, new boys, 

bikikakayasu (43) Kidama bikola 

they might bathe. Supposing he might entangle 

bikamsl; ikolay ikatunisi 

they might eat 3 he entangle, they nick 




yeyunay bikamsl nufnwayay 

tail, they might eat old woman, 

(44) Luya ikatwpisawo 

Coco-nut he wash up by sea 

kwaytanidesi bom^alay 
one only taboo his, 

old man. 
one pair, 




they might eat 

bikam^si; num^wayay tom^aya bikam^si. 

they might eat 3 old women, old men they might eat 

(45) Sopla 

Water his 
they might come here 

Bokaraywata kidama 

Bokaraywata supposing 

ikakayasiy bilousi 

they bathe, they might go 



orokaywoyne; iyenisiy imegwasi, (46) 

up above J they scoop out, they charm. 

Igauga bimimisi yenai 

Later on however they might dream fish^ 

imimimisiy ipelasi; bilousiy 

they dream indeed, they jump 5 they might go^, 

ikanawoyse makwoyna soft. (47) Kabulula 

they lie there this water. Nose 

natanay kabulula nayweluy bikakayasi. 
one, nose second, they might bathe, 

Kidatnaga natanidesi bilisasaysey 

Supposing however one only they might fling out, 
bila obwarka. (48) Kidama nayyUy 

he might go in sea. Supposing two, 

tayta vivilay tayta ta^Uy bikakaysiy 

one woman, one man, they might bathe, 

aywayse ovaluy vivila biy ousts ey 

they go in village, woman they might grasp, 
bimasisisi. (49) Ifnasisisiy ibubulisey 

they might sleep. They sleep, they stir up, 

vayva^i; iva^isiy boge aywokwo 

relations-in-lawj they marry, already it was over 
bisimwoysey ibagulasi, 

they might remain, they garden. 

(50) Imago- taytala gudiva^u. 

He come here however one new boy, 

kalubuwatniy vaygu^a. (51) 

magical payment your, objects of high value. 




They bring here, 


you might charm however. 


they lay down here 


(52) hika^ 

kasina leaves, 

kaywori leaves 
you might charm, 

silasila leaves 
you might charm, 

kaykakaya leaves, 
you might charm, 
you might charm, 


Isika'i leaves, 
ripuripu leaves, 
obsidian blade 
you might charm, 

buresi leaves 
coco-nut husk fibre 


you might charm, gimgwam leaves you might charm, 
yototu bukumegwasiy slnata bukumegwasiy 

yototu leaves you might charm, comb you might charm, 
they should pay. 

^SZ) y^y^^ m^imegwa 

For your magic 

bilousi ikam^si kasi 

they eat their 

they might go 

kasi lalavay 

their ripe betel-nuts, 

kayWusiy kasi 

ripe bananas, their 


payment for magic j 
bulukway kasiy 
pig, their food, 

kasi sam^akuy kasi 

their yellow betel-nuts, their 

toutetilay kasi 

ripe sugar cane, their 



woderi — hikamsu (54) Bogwaga 

yam (variety) — they eat. Already however 

ay may as e 

they brought 


you eat. 



hilawoysaga — hukuslmwoysagay 

they might carry however — you might sit here however^ 

toUmegwa yokwatni — u^ula. 

masters of rrjiagic yourselves — base. 

vaygu'a, kauloy 

bu^a — 

vaygu'a, yam food, 

areca-nut — 

{SS) ToUmegwa 


Masters of magic 




you might give, 

you sit here. 

THE informant's COMMENTARY 

I obtained the following elaborations of the narrative^ 
The number of the sentence referred to is given at the 
beginning of each commentary. 

See 2. Commenting on the relative ages of the two 
children : 

{S^) ^'^^uta ta^Uy isekeli vivila. 

Eldest child man, she follow woman. 

Their names are not known. They belonged to the 
Malasi clan. 

(57) KugiSy Malasi 


Thou see, Malasi 

they marry 

vesiya: taytala 


maternal kinswomen theirs: one man 




Bigayuwo — Nabwayera; 

Eigayuwo (name of man) — Nabwayera (name of his 

wife) j 

tayta Vakuta; tayta Kltava^ 

one man Vakuta j one man Kitava, 

Pwaygasi — Bosilasila, 

Pwaygasi (name of man) — Bosilasila (name of his wife). 

See 1 6. — The behaviour of brother and sister immedi- 
ately preceding the consummation of incest is thus ex- 

(58) Ta'u igisi: gala dabela, ikokolay 

Man he see: no fibre skirt hers, he fear, 
isakauli; minana vivila ibokavilL (59) Iga^Uy 
he runj this woman she chase. Later on, 

boge itubwo lofoula fnatauna^ ikaytasL 

already it upset inside his this man, they copulate. 

See 14-21. — The diagram (Fig. 4, p. 547) showing 
the topography will make the account of the pursuit 

See 19. 

(60) Ikanarise wala obwarka. 
They lie down just in sea. 

Questioned about the meaning of this expression, the 
informant affirmed that they first committed the act of 
incest in the water. In going over the story he described 
the passion in more detail. 

(61) Boge kala laHya ivagi olopoula, 
Already his passion it do in inside his, 



fnagila kumaydona wowola. (62) Boge 

desire his all body his. Already 

ikaytasiy ikimmse^ 

they copulate, they scratch lightly, 


they erotically scratch. 

See 11. — Explaining why the two lovers remained 
without food and drink and so died, my informant says: 

(63) Gala sitana ikarnkwamsi, imofnomsiy fela 
No one bit they eat, they drink, for 

gala fnagisiy boge ivagl simwasilay fela- 

no desire theirs, already it do their shame, for 
luleta ikaytasi. 

brother her sister his they copulate. 

See 26. — Explaining the behaviour of the frigate- 

(64) Ikokwoylubayse — ilousi, isukonisi mayna 
They soar — they go, they smell odour 


^^^ 33- — This, the spell or chant, designated wosi 
(song) and not megwa or yofa (spell) is sung whilst 
they boil coco-nut oil for love magic. It runs: 

{(iS) Mekaru karuwagu; ' mevira. 

Gall bladder, gall bladder mine 5 woman, 

viregu; mebormiy bomatu. 

woman mine 5 North-west wind. North-west wind. 



(66) Ifela karuwagu meviray 

He change place gall bladder mine woman, 

viregu; mebomay homatUy 

woman mine 5 North-west wind, North-west wind, 
fnedaray dara, 
languor, languor. 

The rite is not performed in a strong wind- 

(67) Kidama 

yagiluy gala 

wind, no 


sene bifeulo 

very much it might be strong 

tavagi megwa — tage 
we magic — so that not 

(68) Iga^u niwayluway 

he might blow away. 


we might do 


kwoywaga plant 

boge tasayki 

already we give 

in bush, 


Later on calm weather, 


we might charm 
Kwayaviy bibogi 
Evening, at night 

See 40. — The water in the Kadi'usawasa reef-passage 
has some magical properties, as bathing in it improves the 

(69) Okarikeda Kadi^usawasa gwadi yakida 

In passage of Kadi'usawasa child ourselves 
takakaya buarlse migida. 

we bathe he might beautify face ours. 



About the brackish wells we are told: 

(70) Tabula lasofi Bokaraywata; vivila 

Man his water of Bokaraywata j woman 
Momkitava, (71) Kidama tamomsl hayse softy 
Momkitava. Supposing we drink this water, 

boge takasouso^u, 
already we become grey-headed. 

In general, if persons of either six bathed in the other's 
well, their looks would become impaired. 

The silsila and givagavela plants, mentioned in the 
text (verse 40), grow near the wells. 

In olden days people from other villages, even from 
the neighbouring villages on the lagoon (Sinaketa and 
others) were not allowed to bathe in these waters. 

See 46. — Questioned about the fish, my informant 


(72) Ifniga^sey itnifnise yena nayiyu 

They charm, they dream fish two 

naketoki s'lkmn nayyu 

small animals sikum (name of fish) two 
kahulula kahulula. (73) Natanidesiy taUsala 
nose to nose. Only one, we fling away 

bila obwaritay gala takakaya. 

he might go in the sea, no we bathe. 

See 49. — ^This verse means that such magic would lead 
not only to love but to matrimony: 



(74) Bilivala veyola 

He might speak maternal kinsman his 
vivila: kawala: "Kuwokeya kuvaHsiy 

woman: speech his: "Thou bring there you marry 
ummwala hoge.^^ 

thy husband already." 


Let us now pass from legend to reality, and see how 
events of the present day tally with their prototypes in 
the dim past. It has already transpired that, in spite of 
the seemingly absolute taboo, in spite of a real and over- 
whelming abhorrence felt by the natives, cases of brother- 
and-sister incest do yet actually occur. Nor are they an 
innovation due to European contact — an influence for 
which the natives blame so many changes in custom. Far 
back, before white men appeared in the island, such 
lapses from tribal morality happened, and they are re- 
membered and quoted to-day, with names and details. 

One of the previous paramount chiefs, Purayasi, was 
known to have lived with his sister 5 and another one, 
Numakala, is also strongly suspected by history of this 
felony. They, of course, belonged to the Malasi clan 5 
and there can be no doubt that with them, as with so many 
other dynasties and famous rulers, the feeling of power, 
of being above the law, served as a shield from the 
usual penalties. And, as historical figures, they and their 


doings would not so easily lapse into oblivion as in the 
case of commoners. I was told by my informants that,, 
in olden times, discovery of incest would invariably have 
meant death for both culprits, self-inflicted in the usual 
form of suicide. This would at least have been the case 
when commoners were concerned. But, say the natives,, 
with the influx of missionaries and government officials 
all custom has deteriorated, and even the worst crime can 
be brazened out. 

That a man may still pay the supreme penalty for 
breach of the incest taboo, has been proved to me by the 
following instance which came directly under my observa- 
tion. I had not been in Omarakana more than a couple of 
weeks when one morning, in July, 19 15, I was casually 
told by my interpreter and only informant (at that time 
I still worked in pidgin English) that, in the neighbour- 
ing village of Wakayluwa, a boy named Kima'i had fallen 
off a tree and killed himself — ^by accident. I was also 
informed that somehow, again by accident, another boy 
had received a severe wound. The coincidence seemed 
to me strange at the time, but unable to speak the lan- 
guage and thus gain the full confidence of the natives, I 
was still groping in the dark 5 and being much occupied 
With the customs of mourning and burial, then new to me, 
I gave up all attempt at getting to the bottom of the 

Later on, I strongly suspected that the falling off the 
tree was a case of suicide by lo^u, but the natives remained 
reticent on the subject. For there is nothing more diffi- 
cult for an ethnographer than to find out the ins and outs 



of really important and tragic events of recent date, 
which, if they came under the notice of the local resident 
magistrate, might lead to court proceedings, imprison- 
ments and other serious disturbances of tribal life. And 
in this case, as I learned afterwards, there was some po- 
litical element involved, since Kima'i was a relative of 
Moliasi, the traditional enemy of the paramount chief, 
and the incident had revived the historical tension between 
the ruler of Kiriwina and that of Tilataula.^ 

It was only during my last visit to the Trobriands, when 
almost three years had elapsed since the tragedy, that I 
found out the bare outline of the case. Kima'i had an 
intrigue with his mother's sister's daughter. This was no 
secret, but, though the villagers generally disapproved, it 
was only by the initiative of the girl's betrothed that mat- 
ters were brought to a head. After several attempts to 
separate them, his rival insulted Kima'i in public, telling 
aloud, or rather shouting across the village, the plain fact 
that he was a breaker of the incest taboo, and mentioning 
the name of the girl with whom the incest was committed. 
This, as we know, is the most aggravated form of the 
insult, and it produced the desired effect. Kima'i com- 
mitted suicide. The youth who brought about this was, 
in fact, wounded by the kinsmen of Kima'i j hence the 
strange coincidence of the two casualties occurring at the 
same time. The girl is now married and lives happily 
with her husband. She can be seen on the frontispiece 
made from a photograph taken during mortuary proceed- 

1 For an account of the political conditions among the Trobriand na- 
tives, cf. Seligman's Melanesians and the present writer's Argonauts of 
the IVestern Pacific, ch. ii, sec. v, and Myth, ch. ii. 



ings, at which she wears no mourning (black paint and 
shaven hair) since she was a real kinswoman of the de- 
ceased (see above, ch. vi, sec. 2). The whole occurrence 
gave me some insight into the legal ideas of the natives, 
but with this subject I have dealt elsewhere.^ Here it is 
mainly the sexual aspect which interests us and to this we 
will return. 

For not all the cases of incest — even in its more repre- 
hensible form — lead to the same tragic issue. There is no 
doubt that, at present, several couples are under strong 
suspicion of being guilty of the most heinous form of 
suvasovay that is, of incestuous intercourse between brother 
and sister. One case given to me in detail is that of a 
pretty girl, Bokaylola, who is said to allow her albino 
brother to "visit" her. I had a feeling from the way in 
which my informant spoke about it that the concurrence 
of two immoralities somehow mitigated both. It is felt 
that, since an albino has no chance whatever of a woman 
and since he is not really a man, incest with him is not so 

By far the most instructive and clear case of brother- 
and-sister incest, is the notorious liaison between two 
Malasi people of the village of Okopukopu. 

Mokadayu was still very much alive when I visited the 
Archipelago, and he gave me the impression of a man of 
unusual ability and intelligence. Endowed with a beau- 
tiful voice and famous as a singer, he also for a time 
exercised the lucrative profession of a spiritistic medium. 
In this he arrived independently at some of the great 

1 Crime and Custom, pp. 77 sq. 



achievements in which our modern spiritism excels j such 
as the production of ectoplasm and phenomena of mate- 
rialization (usually of worthless objects) 5 but his spe- 
cialty was rather dematerialization (invariably of valu- 
able objects). He would conjure up an arm and a hand 
— ^belonging presumably to his "control" — and this was 
always ready to foreclose on valuables, food, betel-nut, 
or tobacco, which, no doubt, were transported to the spirit 
world. Obeying the universal law of occult phenomena, 
Mokadayu's "controls" and other spirit friends would 
operate only in the dark. The famous hand from the 
other world could only be dimly seen, clutching at every 
piece of worldly goods within its reach. 

There are arrogant and inconsiderate sceptics, however, 
even in the Trobriands and, one day, a young chief from 
the north caught hold of the hand and dragged out 
Mokadayu himself from the shelf where he lay con- 
cealed behind a mat. After this, unbelievers tried to be- 
little and even to denounce spiritism, but the faithful still 
brought gifts and payments to Mokadayu. 

On the whole, however, he found it better to devote 
himself to love and music, for in the Trobriands, as with 
us, a tenor or baritone is sure of success with women. As 
the natives put it: "The throat is a long passage like the 
wila (cunnus) and the two attract each other. A man 
who has a beautiful voice will like women very much and 
they will like him." Mokadayu, indeed, used to sleep 
with the chief's wives, for he preferred married women, 
who are at a premium in the Trobriands. Finally, after 
having tasted, no doubt, the minor degrees of suvasova 



(clan incest), he came to what was to be the most dramatic 
exploit of his life. 

His sister, Inuvediri, was one of the most beautiful 
girls in the village. Naturally she had many lovers 5 but 
a strange change came over her, and she seemed disin- 
clined^ to sleep with her lemans. The young men of the 
village were dropped one after another. They put their 
heads together and decided to find out what had hap- 
pened to their mistress, suspecting that she must have 
acquired a new and paramount lover, who was satisfying 
all her desires. One night they noticed that brother and 
sister had withdrawn to the parental house. Their sus- 
picions were confirmed: they saw a terrible thing: brother 
and sister making love to each other. A serious scandal 
followed 5 for the news spread all over the village and 
brother and sister were made aware that everybody knew 
of their mutual crime. The story goes that the two lived 
in incest for some months after this discovery, so passion- 
ately were they enamoured of one another, but Mokadayu 
had finally to leave the community. The girl married a 
man from another village. I was told that, in olden 
days, "both would unquestionably have committed suicide. 

Such is the story of Mokadayu and his sister. Together 
with other facts previously described, it shows dramati- 
cally how inadequate is the postulate of "slavish sub- 
servience to custom." It also shows that the opposite 
view — ^that native principles are a sham and a fake — 
would equally be misleading. The fact is that the na- 
tives, while professing tribal taboos and moral principles. 



have also to obey their natural passions and inclinations, 
and that their practice is the compromise between rule 
and impulse, a compromise common to all humanity. 

The myth of incest, at first sight mysterious and incom- 
prehensible, loses a great deal of its strangeness when we 
have found that it reflects certain tendencies which can be 
-seen manifested in real life. The temptation to incest 
evidently does exist in the mind of the natives, though by 
a powerful taboo it is prevented from finding ready 

It is interesting to note how the myth is used to jus- 
tify the cases of real incest which happen nowadays. For 
instance, a clansman of Mokadayu tried to explain and to 
extenuate the latter's crime against tribal morality as fol- 
lows. He told how Mokadayu had prepared coco-nut oil 
impregnated with love magic, in order to induce an amo- 
rous response in another girl 5 how Invediri, entering the 
house, inadvertently spilt some of the fluid and became 
intoxicated by the magic 5 how she discarded her fibre skirt 
and lay naked on the bedstead, longingly awaiting the 
brother. How, on entering the hut, and seeing her naked- 
ness — ^perhaps also feeling the influence of magic on him- 
self — he became inflamed with passion. This paraphrase, 
or rather copy, of the myth was definitely put to me as a 
defence of the criminal 5 it was intended to show that it 
was fatality rather than fault which had brought about 
the abominable act. The myth was thus used as a para- 
digm by which actuality was explained, in order to make 
the deed more comprehensible and acceptable to the na- 



tives. The psychology manifested in this use of the myth 
makes the function of the myth itself clearer to the 

Far from being incompatible with the powerful inci- 
dence of the taboo, the temptation to incest is probably 
strengthened by it through the irresistible fascination 
which forbidden fruit always had, has, and will have for 
the human being. How far psycho-analysis can help us 
to solve this problem and where it merely confuses the 
issues, I have tried to discuss in a previous work.^ Here 
I would like only to repeat that, by correlating the Myth 
of Incest with the realities of life, by placing it side by 
side with typical dreams of the natives, with their obscene 
language, and with their attitude towards taboo in gen- 
eral, we find a satisfactory explanation of its apparent 
strangeness in terms of fact and not of hypothesis. 

"^Sex and Repression, 




Abortion, 197-98 

Adolescents, amorous life of, 61 ff. 
{And see Bachelors and Girls) 


Cases of, 115-17, 144-5; among 
Chief's wives, 137-40, 324, 488, 
Cat's-cradle representing, 398- 

Child-bearing without husband's 
intercourse not attributed to, 
General attitude to, 1 14-15, 458, 
460; in case of pregnant 
woman, 345 
Native word for, 68, 73 ; so- 
called, io6 
Punishment for, 143 ; formerly 
death, 143, 322, 324, 459; semi- 
public shaming, 484 
Taboo on, 456 

AflEection: physiological seat of, 
169; usually lasting in Tro- 
briand marriages, 112-13, 162 

Age: disparity in infant betrothals, 
limit of, 104; table showing 
designations for, 60 

Albinos, 176; native name for, 
299; their appearance, 302-3; 
horror of, 185; ostracism of, 
80, 289, 292-3 ; case of incest 
with, 568 

Ambition and personal pride as 
incentive, 64-5, 123, 127-8 

Amorous expeditions, see Katu- 
yausi and Ulatile 

Amphlett Is., 193, 278, 416; gar- 
den magic in, 44 w. ; sexual 
and social intercourse in, 260, 

Anatomy, human, parts of, dis- 
tinguished and named, 165 

Ancestral spirits, see under Spirits 
Animals, ignorance as to propa- 
gation of, 190-3 {and see Dogs 
and Pigs) 
Anointing {putuma) , 303; ritual, 


Areca palm leaves for dress, 

Argonauts of the Western Pacific 
cited, 3 n., 9 n., 24 n., 35 n., 
42 n., 44 n., 90 n., 116 n., 118 n., 
127 n., 133 n., 153 n., 178 n., 
214 n., 219 and n., 220 n., 
223 n., 248 n., 251 n., 252 «., 
255 n., 287 n., 290 n., 291 n., 
321 n., 345 n., 346, 352 «., 
353 n., 390 n., 392 n., 416 n., 
449 n., 491 n., 540 n., 567 n. 

Armlets: making of, 26; of conus 
shell, 90; aromatic leaves 
worn in {vana), 221, 234, 
248, 270, 305, 449 

Arms (limbs), affection associated 
with, x66, 169 

Aromatic herbs: worn in armlets, 
221, 234, 248, 270, 305, 449; 
used in confinement magic, 
231; in safety magic, 358; in 
love magic, 369-70, 542; bub- 
ivayayta, 431 

Assassins hired by chiefs, 132 

Aunt, maternal, 525-6 

Aunt, paternal, 350-51, 534-5 

Axe-blades, polished, 90, 104 

Babies, see Infants 

Bachelors, privileges denied to, 80 

{and see Bachelors' house and 

Bachelors' house {hukumatula) : 
Adolescents' occupancy of, 62» 

70, 520 



Bachelors' house (Cont.) 

Characteristics of, summarized, 

75 ^ . 

Decorum observed in, 73, 322, 

Freedom of relationships m, 69, 


Girls betrothed in infancy not 
frequenters of, 105, 106 

Girls from another village occu- 
pying, 264 

"Group concubinage" non-exist- 
ent in, 73 

Importance of, 51, 70 

Interiors of, 72 

Meals never taken in, 75 

Number of, in Omarakana, 71-2 

Ownership of, 72 

Sexual intercourse in, quiet mode 

of, 73, 337 
Temporary quarters contrasted 
with, 65-6 

Bad language — swearing, 381, 446, 
482-6, 533-4; children's, 54 

Bagido'u, 99 ; his expulsion of 
Namwana Guya'u, 13-14; his 
wife's desertion, 144-5, 37^; 
his friendship with Jubukwa'u, 
471 ; cited, 103 

Baku, see Village — Central place 

Baldness, 291 

Baloma, see Spirits 

"Baloma: The Spirits of the Dead 
in the Trobriand Islands" 
cited, 428 n. 

Bam, 165; vatula bam, 228-31 

Banana leaves: for dress, 26-7, 
304; used in magic, 512; seeds 
as necklaces, 305 

Barter of fish and vegetables, 26, 

Bathing games, 247 (and see Sea- 

Ba'u string figure, 398-9 

Ba'u village, 416; endogamous dis- 
trict of, 457, 499-500 

Bawdiness, see Ribaldry 

Beauty and personal charm: 
Ideal of, 286-8, 292, 294-7; in 

detail, 297-303 
Interest in, intense, 345 
Magic of, see under Magic 

Beauty and personal charm (Cont.) 
Taboos regarding, 289-90 
To'uluwa's formula of, 308-9 

Bellamy, Dr., 231 and n. 

Belly, desire and affection asso^ 
ciated with, i66, 169 

Belts: making of, 26; wearing of, 

304, 305 
Bestiality: native contempt for, 

469-70, 474; case of, ,474-5 
Betel-nut: for chewing, 125, 270, 

335-6; for lip-painting, 270; 

gifts of, 307 
Beyawa, 432-33 
Bigayuwo, 546 
Bilamapu, 339 

Biting, erotic, 333, 340-43, 475 
Bi'u (tug-of-war game), 245, 253 
Black - grease - smearing [koulo), 

117, 292, 296-7, 444 
Blackening of teeth, 226, 299, 308 
Blood {buyam) : in menstruation, 

169; in pregnancy, 175, 188 
Bodogupo'u, 529 
Bodulela, 87, 315, 329, 529 
Bogonela, 118-19 

Bokaraywata grotto, 543, 544, 550 
Bokaylola, 568 
Bokuyoba, 136, 138, 200 
Bolobesa, 120, 143 
Bolutukwa (Mitigis), 182-3 
Bomala, 461-3 {and see Taboos) 
Bomawise, 139 
Bomidabobu, 136 
Bomiyototo, 136 
Bones as relics, 155-6; their final 

rest, 157 
Bo'usari, 144 
Bowels, 168 
Boyowa Island, 9, 171 {and see 

names of 'villages) 
Boys {see also Bachelors' house) : 
Amorous opportunities for, 250 

{and see Ulatile) 
Boasting of, 330 
Excursions of, with girls, 246-7, 

326-28, 335-6 
Fornication of, with old women, 

294, 343 
Friendships of, 471-2 
Games for, 243-4 
Group formed by, 63-4 



Boys (Cont.) 

Love magic as practised by, 

364 ff. 
Orgiastic licence of, 256-7 
Removal of, from home, 520 
Sexual intrigues of, 63 ; their 
freedom, 66 ; the personal pref- 
erence element, 63, 67, 74 
Breasts: native words to describe, 
301 ; love-magic associated 
with, 250 
Brother of a woman: 

Guardianship functions of, 18, 
28, 35-36, 84-5, 129, 201-2, 521 
Likeness to his sister denied, sug- 
gestion an insult, 206, 487 
Original, from underground, 182 
Taboo between sister and, see 
under Taboos 
Brother's wife, taboo regarding, 


Buhunela, 463 {and see Conven- 

Bubivayayta, 431 

Budiya, Headman of Kabululo, 87, 

Bugwabwaga, 174 

Bukumatula, see Bachelors' house 

Bulaviyaka, 71 {and see Dwelling- 

Bulubivalata, see Sorcery 

Bulubwaloga, 139-40, 317, 530 

Bulukiva, see Pigs 

Bulukwau'ukwa, 118 

Burayama, 471 

Buresi leaves, 545 

Burials, central space formerly 
used for, 10, 154 {and see Mor- 
tuary Ritual) 

Bush, the: children's amours in, 
56, 65; confinements in, 230; 
assignations in, 263 

Bush-pigs, 190; taboo on, 190; 
mating of, with village pigs, 
190-2 ; associated with garden 
taboo, 493 

Butia flower, 303, 357; kayasa, 

Butura, see Renown 
Buiva, 319 
Buyavi, see Blood 
Bwadela village, 172 n., 274, 279 

Bwaga village, 274 
Bivala nakaka'u, 71 
Bivaulo, 150, 450 
Bwaylagesi, 432 
Bivayma, see Yam-houses 
Bwaytalu village, 417; endoga- 
mous district of, 457, 499-500 
Bivaytwva (white bird), 214-15 
Bivoyna, meaning of term, 464-66 

Canoe-building: a man's work, 26; 
magic connected with, 41, 42, 
Canoes, ownership of, 25, 34; 
miniature, contest with, 39, 
Carving, 26 
Cat's-cradles {ninukula), 398 and 

Ceremonial enterprises, financing 

of, 81 
Ceremonial exchange, see Kula 
Change of air, curative use of, 235 
Chiefs {see also To'uluwa and 
other names) : 
Decorous speech in presence of, 

Dwelling-house of {lisiga)^ 10, 

71 ; its platform, 33 
Festivities, etc., financed by, 81, 

Hereditary service to, 11 
Polygamy the privilege of, 11, 34, 
81 ; its economic necessity, 
130 if.; the kaymapula, 131; 
for the heir-apparent, 134 
Precedence in household of, 136 
Privileges of, besides polygamy, 

130; taboos regarding, 457 
Respect paid to, 32-3 and n?y 

130, 477-78 
Social demands on, 81, 130-33 
Sons of: their rank, 136; their 
deputizing functions, 96, 98-9 
Tributary districts of, 131-2 
Villages placed under taboo dur- 
ing absence of, 115-16 
Wealth of, derived through mar- 
riage, 130-32 
Wives of {ffiyovila) : their gifts 
from relatives, 125-6; three 
classes of, 136-7; choice of, 



137; head of, 136; substitute 
(kaymapula), 13 1-2, 134; ta- 
boo on, 457; prostitution of, in 
Sinaketa, 323 

Yam-houses of, 442 
Chieftainship : 

Heir-apparent: friction between 
chief's son and, 16, 97-8, 102; 
substitute-wife provided for, 
on death of chief's wife, 134 

Rank associated with, 30-31 

Women barred from, 34 
Childbirth, father's function at, 201 
(and see Confinement) ; virgin 
birth of Tudava, 182, 426 
Children {see also Infants) : 

Boys: early removed from 
mother and sisters, 55, 62, 520; 
age for beginning sexual life, 
57; amorous pastimes, 58; also 
separate from girls, 59 

Cleanliness taught to, 446 

Custom, their deference to, 53 

Development of, 518-19 

Divorce, in cases of, 140-7 

Father in relation to, see under 

Girls: accompanying their 
fathers, 54; age for sexual in- 
dulgence, 56-7; also separate 
from boys, 59 

Illegitimate, 20-21, 194; their 
rarity, 196-7; no preventive 
means employed, 197-8; sug- 
gested explanation, 198 

Independence of, 52-4, 518 ; the 
child community, 53, 63-4; its 
two groups, 59 

Longing for, 81 

Mother in relation to, see under 

Origin of, 171 ff., 178-9 {and see 

Parental discipline non-existent, 

Precocity of, in sexual knowledge 
and indulgence, 54-6, 63 ; atti- 
tude of the elders, 56 ; age for 
beginning, 56-7; amorous pas- 
times, 56-8 ; initiation by each 
other, 55; no interference by 
elders, 59 ; place of indulgence. 

56, 65-6; lasting character of 

some erotic attachments, 314-15 
Recognition of, by the father, if 

born in wedlock, 193-4 
Relations-in-law, counted as, 126 
Training of, in the brother-sister 

taboo, 520 
Weaning of, 234-5, 5^8 
Citizenship rights: 

Maternal village the seat of, 7 
Mythological grounds of claim 

to, II 
Clans, totemic {see also their 

names) : 
Ceremonial functioning of, 499 
Classification by, implications of, 

496-98, 500 
Exogamy of, 455-6, 503 {and see 

Four, universality of, in native 

belief, 494-6 
Matrilineal principle observed in 

membership of, 6, 208-9 
Mortuary sagali based on, 347 
Mourning obligations of, 151-2 
Names of, 496 
Reincarnation into one's own, 

Solidarity of sentiment of, 163, 

200, 505 
Stringency of taboo varying with, 

Cleanliness, 444-8 
Cloak {saykeulo) for pregnancy 

and after, 212-17, 221, 223, 

225, 227, 233-4 
Coco-nut fibre: for skirts, 304; for 

washing, 351-4 
Coco-nut oil: for anointing, 220, 

228, 234, 303, 308, 353-4, 466; 

used in magic, 372, 541-3; 

spells of, 549 
Co-habitation preceding marriage, 

67-9, 74 {and see Sexual in- 
Competitive displays {kayasa)y 

Conception : 

Beliefs as to, 173 ff.; spirit 
agency, 180-81, i88; associated 
with sea-water, 175, 225; sex- 
ual intercourse associated with, 



180, 181; but not necessary to, 

181, 294, 426; the condition 
sine qua non, 180-3 > also in 
animals, 191-2 

Contraceptives unknown, 197-9 
Conch-shells: in the butia kayasa, 
254, 255; magic associated 
with, 348; in magic of re- 
nown, 360-61 
Confinement: in father's or mater- 
nal uncle's house, 223, 228-9; 
sometimes in the bush, 230; 
fear of sorcery, 221 ; the yausa, 
229; the travail and childbirth, 
Consumption, 145 
Conus shell armlets, 90 
Conventionality: its traditional 
sanction, 224-5, 462; its power, 
195, 202, 294, 462, 506; in love- 
making, 325 {and see Custom) 
Cooking, 19; taboo on, 71 
Copulation (kayta), see Sexual act 
Coral ridge {raybivag), 326 
Corpses: burial of, see Mortuary 
ritual ; emanation from 
(bivaulo), 150, 450; signs on, 
indicating death motive, 358, 
Cosmetics, see Face-painting 

Decorum observed in, 479-80 
Direct methods of, 312 
Effect on, of early sexual ex- 
periences, 311 
Intermediary (kaykivi), 313 
Magic applied to, 63, 313, 318 
Music in, 312 

Satisfaction and rejection In, re- 
sults of, 313-14 
Cousin of a man, first maternal 
female, taboo regarding, 527, 


Cousin of a man, first maternal 
male, customary unfriendliness 
with, 16, 98, 102 

Cousin of a man, first paternal fe- 
male, marriage with, see Mar- 
ri age — cross-cousin 

Cousin of a woman, first paternal 
{tama), 102, 531 

Crime and Custom in Savage So- 

ciety cited, 8 n.f 12 n., 35 n.^, 
53 n., 127 n., 155 n., 210 n., 
236 n., 252 n., 318 n., 321 «., 
358 n.f 386 n.i, 460 n., 462 n., 
485 n., 491 n., 509 n., 513 «., 
521 n., 568 n. 
Custom, tribal {see also Conven- 
tionality) : 
Breach of, accounted as wrong- 
doing, 195, 202 
Children's deference to, 53 
Force of, 127; destruction of, 
harmful, 128-9 

Dabugera: betrothal of, to Kalo- 
gusa, 78, 99, 108; divorces her 
husband, 79-80, 143 ; intrigue 
with Monakewo, 79-80, 329; 
his attachment, 315-16; his 
love-making, 341-a 
Dabivana, 168 
Dadam (reeds), 360 
Dagiribu'a, 145 
Dakiya, 145, 377, 532 
Dala, see Sub-clans 
Dances, sale of {laga)^ 250-1 and n. 

Central space used for, 10 
Ceremonial, 50 
Drum-taboo incident, 38 
Kasaiuaga, 348, 350 
Kaydebu, 286 

Magic — against dancers {kay- 
giauri), 357-8, 458, 460; for 
their protection, 358 
Men's part in, 39 
Milamala festivities, 249-50 
Mortuary ritual, in (vaysali), 

37, 154 
Miveli, 350 
Ornaments for, 24 
Precedence of, over singing, 

Proficiency in, a danger, 358, 458, 

Sexual representations entirely 

absent from, 397 
Tokolimatala, 348 
Dancing period {usigola) : sagali 

preceding, 348 ; last three days, 

349-50; extension of, 252 
Da'ui, 277 n. 



Dawson Straits, N.E. shores of, 
44 n. ^ 

Dead, the, immediate departure of, 
to Tuma, 149, 175 {and see 
Mortuary ritual and Spirits) 

Death {see also Mortuary ritual) : 
Cause of, traced by signs on 
corpse, 358, 459-60; natural 
causes for, not recognized, 
459 ; sorcery held to be the 
cause of, 161, 459 
Impossibility of, for the spirit, 

Penalty of, for adultery, in for- 
mer times, 143, 322, 324, 459 

Decorative art: rank entitling to, 
32; sex absent from, 397 

Decorum: as to sexual intercourse, 
69, io6, 110-12, 454; of katu- 
yausi and ulatile, Z'jz-'i, ; rules 
of, numerous, 438 ; their strict 
observance, 477 ff. ; rigid — of 
husband and wife as to sex 
matters, in; and in presence 
of a brother and sister, 521 

Decrease in population, 72 

Deformity, 288-9 

Delicacy in behaviour, 439-40, 
445-8, 451 ; in conversation, 488, 

De-lousing, see Lice 

d'Entrecastaux Archipelago, 277 «., 
358, 416 

Derision, fear of, 19 

Desire, organs affected by, 165-7 

Digawina, story of, 408 

Digiyagaya, 116 

Dipapa, 471 

Disease, see Illness 

Distributions, ceremonial: of food 
and wealth — in mortuary rit- 
ual, 37; of food — for preg- 
nancy services, 223 ; in a 
kayasa {sagali), 253, 347-8; 
at milamala, 443 ; as marriage 
gifts, 89 ff.; of valuables, 90-1, 

Distribution of property, 24-5 
Ditties, erotic, examples of, 240-3 
Diving, magic connected with, 40 

Cases of, 79-80 

Divorce {Coni.) 
Formalities of, 146 
Frequency of, 142 
No stigma attaching to, 147 
Reasons for, 143-4 
Wife's adoption of, rather than 
husband's, 142-3, 147 
Doha, see Dress — Women's 
Dobu Island, 44 n. 
Dobuans: physical type of, 306; 
sexual and social intercourse 
among, 260, 277 n., 311-12; 
preliminary love-making, 331-2 
Dogina, 168 

Dogs: insults to, 447; the case of 
"Jack," 474; the totemic myth, 
Dokonikan, 289, 403 

Erotic, 393-4 
Freud's theory of, 385 
Incestuous, 393-4, 396 
Magic in relation to, 391-6, 
403-4; the spell in love magic, 

Ordinary, natives' attitude to, 

386, 393-4 
Pregnancy foretold in, 174, 211, 


Prophetic, 389, 394-5 

Standardized, 387, 394 

Festive, 38, 39, 50; semi-festive, 
at harvest presentations, 124 

Men's: the pubic leaf: its form, 
303-4; its material, 303-4; its 
making, 26; its wearing, 62; 
its significance, 274; its re- 
moval, on fishing expeditions, 
54. 451; with lover, 332, 336; 
in lechery, 490; its renewal, 
248; taboo regarding, 451; 
ditty concerning, 241, 242; 
men's festive attire, 50; 
women's skirts assumed for a 
dance, 39 

Modesty in, 439, 450-1, 478 

Requirements in, 450 

Women's: under and upper 
skirts of grass or leaf-fibre, 22, 
24, 50, 304-5; making of, 26-7; 
the magic for, 43 ; age for as- 



suming skirt, 56; care at ado- 
lescence, 62 ; renewal of, at 
harvest festivities, 248 ; display 
of, 269; worn by men at a 
dance, 39; longer sometimes 
worn, 170, 304; widows', on 
release from mourning, 158, 
212-17; pregnancy robes, 223; 
maternity cap, 234; discarding 
of skirts — at night, 166, 332, 
336; after childbirth, 232; in 
the yausa, 275 ; taboo regard- 
ing skirts, 451 
Drums: male ownership of, 24; 

breaking the taboo on, 38 
Drunkenness, natives' attitude to, 

Dual influence of paternal love and 
matrilineal principle, impor- 
tance and effects of, 7, 202 ; 
tension and friction resulting, 
12 ff., 15-16; domestic aspect 
of, 21 ; cross-cousin marriage a 
reconciling compromise, 95, 
97-8, 103 {and see under Mar- 
riage) ; economic aspect of, 
Dudubile Kautala, 117-18 

Building of, men's and women's 
work in, 26; help in, 126; gifts 
requiting this help, 91-2 

Children's sexual pastimes not 
carried on in, 56, 65 

Decorations denoting rank, 32 

Interiors and furnishing of, 22 

Ownership of, 18, 25 

Privacy impossible in, 54 

Situation of, 9 
Dyeing, 27 

Ear-rings, 305 

Ears: ideal beauty of, 298; piercing 
and adornment of, 298-9 

Eatin-r: enjoyment of, 441-2; man- 
ners associated with, 441-2; 
privacy preferred, 350 

Economic Journal: ''Primitive Eco- 
nomics of tlze Trobriand 
Islanders" cited, 133 «., 248 n., 
252 n. 

Elopement, 86 

Embracing, hugging (kopo'i) : of 

infants, 18, 20, 195, 201; of 

adults, 169 
Endogamy, see Marriage — Endog- 

amous . 
Engaged couples: infidelities of, 69; 

advertisement by, of forthcom- 
ing marriage, 69, 77, 84; 

meals never taken in common 

by, 75 ; consent of girl's family, 

importance of, 85-7 
Entertainments, sexual indulgence 

associated with, 50, 65, 66, 69 
Equality of status of men and 

women, 18, 29, 40, 49 
Erotic interest, focus of, 295-6 
Erotic phase of life, sociological 

importance of, 1-3 
Ethnographical work, methods of, 

282-85, 502 ff. 
Euphemisms, 446 
European physiognomy not admired 

by the natives, 307 
Excrement, insults associated with, 

446, 486 
Excretory processes: ribald talk of, 

403; delicacy regarding, 439; 

arrangements for, 445-6 
Excursions, 246-7 
Exhibitionism, native contempt for, 

454, 468, 469, 470, 476, 490 
Exogamy, see Marriage — Exoga- 

Eyebrows, shaving of, 297 
Eyelashes, erotic biting off of, 297, 

334. 342-3, 472 
Eyes: the seat of desire, 166, 297; 
of affection and love, 169; 
ideal beauty in, 297 

Face: as object of erotic interest, 

295; the ideal, 296, 368 
Face-painting (soba), 124, 221, 
248, 270, 300, 356; pigments 
used, 296-7 
Facial resemblances, 204-8, 487 
Family, the: 

Basis of Trobriand social organ- 
ization, 202, 514 
Break-up of, at adolescence of 

children, 62 
Pride in, 127 



Family {Cont.) 

Sexual taboos regarding, 456 
Father {tama) : — 

Children, relation to: physical 
bond not recognized, 4, 81, 
84, 456; regarded tribally as 
strangers, 161 ; physical like- 
ness asserted, 204-8 ; reason 
alleged for this, 207-8 ; rec- 
ognition of, if born in wed- 
lock, though in husband's 
prolonged absence, 193-4; 
"system of obligations and 
reciprocal duties," 515, 516- 
17; his care and companion- 
ship, 6, 18, 156; nursing the 
baby (kopo't), 18, 20, 195, 
201; soiling services, 21, 157, 
444; bond of affection, 6, 12, 
15, 20-1, 95-6, 203, 530; na- 
tives' explanation of this, 
210; no punishments, 52; 
transfer of authority to ma- 
ternal uncle, 7; children's 
mourning at his death, 151; 
their part in mortuary ritual, 

Daughter: his importance re- 
garding her marriage, 84-6, 
202; his part regarding her 
first pregnancy, 212-13, 222- 
4; incest with him strictly 
tabooed, 456, 528, 533; not 
sworn at, 534; step-daughter 
not distinguished from, 529 
Son: ambassador for marriage 
consent for, 86 ; position of 
the favourite son, 96; priv- 
ileges conferred on, during 
father's lifetime, 209 
Household, his place in: a stran- 
ger (tomakava), 5; the master, 
6, 18; only partially the head, 
129; his domestic helpfulness, 
18, 49 
Spirit of, as agent in his daugh- 
ter's pregnancy, 173, 175 
Fellatio, 475 

Fellowes, Rev. S. B., 276 
Festivities and feasts {see also 
Dancing, Karibom, Kayasa, 
Milamala) : 

Festivities and feasts {Cont.) 
Beauty magic before, 220 and ». 
Central space used for, 10, 50 
Dress for, 27, 39, 124, 305 
Financing of, 81, 131, 132 
Harvest, 26, 123 ff., 248, 260 
Male and female demeanour at, 

Fetishism, native contempt for, 469 

Fibre petticoats, see Dress — Wo- 

Fire, origin of, 427 

Fireplaces, 22 


Gift of {takivalelavilakuria) y 

Gift of first-caught, to chief, 131 
Myth of Incest, in, 544-5, 550 
Poison from, ii8, 120 
Refuse of, disposal of, 445 
Spine of, used in love magic, 

Stingaree, see that heading 
Tabooed kinds of, 227, 289-90 
Fishing expeditions: a man's work, 
17, 25; youths' share in, 64; 
magic connected with, 40, 42, 
48 ; organizer of, the wielder 
of its magic, 389-90; girl chil- 
dren accompanying their fath- 
ers on, 54; pubic leaf re- 
moved on, 54, 304 
Flattery-bond {tileiva'i)^ 215, 352, 

Flowers: as personal decoration, 
40, 124, 305; kayasa of, 254-5 
Foetus, 176 

Folk-lore, characters of, 289 

Abstinence from, by couple 
awaiting consent to marriage^ 
86, 90 
Articles of, 19; bananas, 125. 

Ceremonial burying of, 348 
Ceremonial distribution of (sa- 
ffali)y see under Distribution 
Coco-drinks, 125 
Gifts of, see Gifts 
Necessity of, not recognized, 441 
Not taken on love-making expe- 
ditions, 327, 336 



Food (Cont.) 

Offering of, to spirits, 389 

Sago pudding, ceremonial eating 

of, 349 
Scarcity of, a matter of shame, 

127, 442, 470, 491, 
Taboos on, seg under Taboos 
Unclean, totemic myth as to, 499 
Fornication, native word for, 68 
Freckles, 303 
Friendship, 471-2 

Fruits forbidden to pregnant wo- 
men, 227 
Furniture, 22 

Gaga, meaning of term, 464-8 

Bathing, 247 

Children's, sex element in, 55, 

Erotic, 238 ff., 250; reason for na- 
tive appreciation of, 479-80, 

Romance in, 58 

Seasons for, 237, 260 

Tug-of-war {bi'u)^ 245, 253-4 

Harvest, 122 if. 

Magic connected with, 41-44 and 
«.i, 47-8 

Men's work in, 25-6 

Sexual taboo during, 455 

Weeding the woman's work, 25, 
274, 279 

Youths' share in, 64 

Gaiety of, at harvest time, 124-5 

Male ownership of, 25 

Master-in-charge of, 389-91 

Sexual intercourse near, tabooed, 

Types of, 122 

Visiting, at harvest-time, 124, 
Gatumijoalila, 365 
George, Mick, 191 

Betrothal, 85; infant betrothal 

ceremonies, 104 
Ceremonial exchange of, in the 
hula, see Kula; in the butia 
kyasa, 254-5 

Gifts {Cont.) 

Chief, to a, 130-1, 134 

Flattery gifts {tileiva'i), 215, 352, 

Funeral, 159-60 
House-building help, in requital 

of, 91 
Importance of ceremonial, 90 n., 

Katuyausi, in, 271 

K ovist, 126 

Marriage, see under Marriage 

Occasional (youlo), 127 

Personal praise, for, 307 

Reconciliation, of {lula), 114, 

Reciprocity rule, 319, 350, 49J 
and n., 551 

Sexual intercourse requited bj 
(bunva), 319-21 

Valuables, of {<vaygu'a) : :r) t'l 
kula, see that heading; en 
marriage, 90-1, 93, 104; resti- 
tution of, not entailed by di- 
vorce, 146; on marriage after 
divorce, 147 ; to mourners, 
159-60 [251 

Village to village, exchange of, 
Gigiremutu (=r blackened teeth), 

266, 299, 308 
Gilayviyaka, 139-40, 317, 376, 530 
Gimgivam leaves, 545 
Ginger-root used in magic, 358; 

Girls, unmarried {see also under 
Children) :— 

Adolescence of, 62 

Amorous escapades of, see Ka- 

Childlessness general among, 
158-9, 188-9, ^95; child-bearing 
considered improper, 194-7, 

Excursions with boys, 246-7, 326" 

8, 335-7 
Forcible methods of, 264 
Group formed by, 63-4 
Initiative shown by, 269 
Orgiastic license of {kamali), 

Sea-water avoided by, if much 

drift-debris present, 175 



Girls, unmarried (Cont.) 

Sexual intrigues of, 63 ; the per- 
sonal preference element, 63, 
67, 74; their freedom, 66 
Status of, resumed by divorcing 

or divorced wives, 146-7 
Strangers entertained, custom 
of intercourse with, 259-60, 
White traders, living with, 186, 

Gi'vagela bush, 544 

Giyovila, see Chiefs — wives of 

Gomaya of Sinaketa: his intrigue 
with Ilamweria, 107, 375-6, 
510-11 ; desertion of her on her 
child's birth, 194; left by his 
wife, 147; his boasting, 329; 
his caricature of white men, 
338; his magic, 375-6; esti- 
mate of, 107, 376, 510; cited, 

GonorrhcEa, 47 
Gossip, 329 

Grandmother, maternal, 524-5 
Gugu'a, 497 
Gugivapo'u, 300 
Gumabudi, 120, 530 
Gumaluya, 119 
Gumanuma, see White men 
Gumasila, 118 
Gusaweta, 293-4 
Guya'u, meaning of term, 30, 144, 

Givadi {and see children), 60 

Hair on the body (unu'unu), 300 
Hair on the head: varieties of 
beauty of, 299-300; modes of 
wearing, 299-300; lice in, see 
Lice; tearing of each other's, 
in love-making, 333 
Hair-dressing, 300; festival of, 

Half-castes, 208 
Hancock, Billy, 217; cited, 293 

Ceremonies and social gaiety of, 

26, 123 ff., 248, 260-1 
Competitive (kayasa), 124 
Festivities following: milamala, 
season of, 261 ; description of, 

249 and W.-51 ; dress for, 26, 
248; drum incident, 38; chief's 
food display at, 442-3 ; spirit 
visitations during, 249, 388, 

Gift from bride's family {vilaku- 
ria), 89, 91-2, 105, 147; after 
marriage following divorce, 
147; annual contribution from 
wife's family (urigubu), 8i, 
85, 97, 104, 105, 121 ff., 132 

Head: load-bearing on, 19-20; ta- 
boo on chief's, 34; as object of 
erotic interest, 295 

Health and healing, magic con- 
nected with, 41, 45, 47-8, 231, 


Hibiscus, 125 

Homosexuality: contempt for and 
repugnance to, 448, 453, 468, 
472-3 ; unnatural conditions 
conducive to, 473 

Hospitality, sexual latitude asso- 
ciated with, 259-60, 322 

Humanity, origins of, 182 

Hunting: men's work, 17, 25; 
youths' share in, 64 ; magic 
connected with, 42, 48, 389 

Husband {see also Marriage and 
Divorce) : 
Dowry of {'vilakuria) , 77, 88, 92, 
97, 105-6; {urigubu), 8i, 85, 
97, 104, 105, 121 ff., 132 
Household, his position in: a 
stranger, 17, 44-5; the master, 
6, 18; only partially the head, 
129; socially indispensable, 
201-3; domestic help, i8, 49, 
Orgiastic excesses of, 258-9 
Wife, relations with: good com- 
radeship, i8, 49, 83, X09, 111- 
13; friction, 113-14; attach- 
ment — genuine grief at death, 
162; guardianship functions, 
201-3; abstention from sexual 
intercourse at a stage in preg- 
nancy, 201, 226, 228 ; till after 
weaning, 233; the yausa, 229; 
etiquette in public in presence 
of, 477 ; peace-offerings if wife 
leaves, 146 



Husband's brother, taboo regard- 
ing, 532 

Hyde, Rev. C. M., of Honolulu, 

Ibena, Chief, cited, 181 

Ibomala, 113, 116 

Ibo'umli, 357 

Ibo'una, 99, 143 

Idiots, 292 

Igamugiva, 213 

Igava'u, 212 

Igovasi, 360 

Ilaka'ise, 137-9, 317 

Ilakavetega legend, 404-5, 483 

Ilamweria of Wakayse: Gomaya's 
intrigue with, 107-8, 375-6, 
510; his desertion, 194 

Ilapakuna, 119 

Illegitimacy, scorn and disapproval 
of, 194-6, 198-202 

Illness and disease {silami) : magic 
to induce, 41, 45, 47, 192, 362, 
363, 392, 449-50; magic to 
cure, 45, 47-8, 231, 519; as 
punishment for breach of ta- 
boos, 289; the penalty for in- 
cest, 504, 511 

Iluwaka'i, 143 

I misty a, 68 

Immortality of spirits, 171 

Ina, see Mother and Aunt, mater- 

Inagwadi, 60 {and see Children) 

Brother-sister, horror regarding, 

462, 466 
Cases of, 87, 315, 528-9, 565 flF. 
Clan (breach of exogamy), 503; 
evasions of taboo, 505, 511-12, 
534; disease alleged as retri- 
bution for, 504, 511 
Degrees of, 455-6 
Dreams of, 392-4, 396 
Family, taboos on, 16, 55, 102 
Malasi clan's addiction to, 

Myth of, 538, 541 ff.; the origi- 
nal text, 551 ff. ; appeal to the 
myth, 570-2 
Suicide as penalty for, 513 
Ineykoya, 155 


Betrothal of {vaypokala) , 83, 95, 
98-99> 535 > ceremonies of, 
104-5 'y regarded as equivalent 
to marriage, 105 

Birth of, 230-1 ; father's function 
at, 201 {and see Confine- 

Discarnate spirits the source of, 

172, 175-8 ; names for discar- 
nate spirits, 177; drifting and 
"wailing, 173 ; their transporta- 
tion to pregnant women, 174-6 ; 
manner of their conception, 

173, 180-1 {and see Concep- 

Food for, 234 

Girls as welcome as boys, 29 
Nursing of, by fathers {kopo'i), 
18, 20, 195, 201 {and see 
Parading of, 233 
Washing of, 234 
Weaning of, 235, 518 
Inheritance, customs as to, 209- 

Insults, 111, 205-6, 446-7, 483-7; 
sexual, 112, 485-6, 502; men- 
tion of names an intensification 
of, 447, 487, 567 
Inuvayla'u, legend of, 413 ff. 
Inuvediri, 570 

Inversion, see Sexual perversion 
Isakapa, 120 

Isepuna: her desertion of Yobuk- 
wa'u for Kalogusa, 79, 376; 
her marriage, 79, 83, 112, 3T.7; 
the marriage gift, 94 
Jsulumomoni, 340 
Isupwana, 87, 137 
Ita<vakayse, bisila, 349 
Ita<vakayse kaydehu, 349 
Itokoluk'wa'i, 349 
Iwa village, myth of, 541 ff. 

Janet, P.: Les Medications Psych- 
ologiques, cited, 363 

Jealousy, in marriage, 114, 120, 
139, 142; caused by katuyausi, 
273, 323 ; quarrels and fights 
resulting from, 322; motives in, 
323-4 ; contradictions in, 323 ; 



at a kayasa, 359; as motive for 
sorcery, 459-60 
Journal R. Anthropological Insti- 
tute cited: (1909), 2S7 n.; 
(1916) : "Baloma, Spirits of 
the Dead," 9 n.; article in, 185 
n., 192, 249 w., 388 «., 390 n.j 

428 n., 432 «.; (1927): 249 «• 

Jungle, the, see Bush 

Kabisilova spell, 379-81 

Kabululo village, 87, 529 

Kabwaku village, 447 

Kabwaynaka, 120 

Kabwaynaya, 103 

Kada, 7 {and see Uncle) 

Kadamwasila: her marriage, 134; 
her prestige, 137; her grief for 
her exiled son, 14; her death, 
15; To'uluwa's affection for, 
113, 134, 137; his grief for her 
death, 162 

Kadikoko, 297 

Kadi'usawasa reef passage, 542, 
544, 548, 550 

Kadubulami, 99 

Kakaveyola, 496, 499, 512 

Kakaya, see Washing 

Kakayuwa, 485 

Kala ivabu, 358, 459 

Kalapatu, i8i 

Kalimomyo, 123 

Kalogusa: betrothed to Dabugera, 
78-9, 99, 108 ; his intrigue with 
Isepuna, 79, 376; his marriage, 
79, 83, 99, .108, 112, 317; the 
marriage gift, 94 

Kaloma festival, 255 

Kamali (kimali) kayasa, 256-9 

Kamroru, 254 

Kamwalila, 145 

Kaniyaviyaka, 119 

Kapwani village, 176 

Karawata, story of, 408-9 

Karibom, 249-51, 370, 372 

Kasana'i village, 87, 96, 113, 181, 
488 ; number of bachelors' 
houses in, 71 

Kasaysuya (a game), 239-40 

Kasesa, 165; jokes about, 398-9; 
folk-tales about, 404-8 

Kasina magic, 368 

Katoulo distinguished from silami, 


Katubivadela b'wala, 224 

Katudabuma, 332 

Katugogova, 259 

Katumivalela kasakasa, 349 

Katwvila, 89, 105 

Katuyausi (licentious escapades of 
girls) : not for those betrothed 
in infancy, 105, 106 ; motives 
for, 269 ; procedure for, 270-2 ; 
missionaries' effect on, 272; 
limits regarding, 458 ; jealous 
resentment caused by, 273, 

Kaukweda Guya'u, 118-19 
Kaulagu village, 424 
Kaulo, 227 

Kavataria village, 96, 143, 415 
Kavatokulo, 504 
Kavaylu'a, 227 
Kayasa (competitive displays) : 

Binding force of, 252 

Danger of violence at, 359 

Festive dress at, 38-9 

Flowers {butia wreaths), 254-5 

Hair-dressing, 255 

Harvest, 124 

Kamali {kimali), 256-8 

Monotony of, 256 

Tug-of-war, 246, 253, 258, 277 

Types of, 39-40, 245-6, 252-3 
Kayawa, 117 
Kaybola village, 173, 178, 272, 

Kaygiauri, see Dancing — Magic 
Kaygumita, 301 
Kaykaboma, 89, 90, 105 
Kaykakaya spell, 220, 366 
Kaykivi, 313 
Kaykivayivosi, 234 
Kayla'i, 96, 481 
Kaylasi, meaning of term, 68, 

Kayleula Island, love magic system 

from, 373 
Kaymapula (substitute wife), 131, 

Kaymata, 122 
Kaymugnua, 122 
Kay papa, iii 
Kayro'iiva, 544 



Kaysaki, kaytubo, kaylobu, 301 
Kayta, meaning of term, 56 {and 
see Sexual Act and Sexual in- 
Kayta cat's-cradle set, 399-400 
Kaytalugi, rabid women of, 183, 

277, 422 ff., 454 
Kaytatuvilena leaves, 177 
Kidneys, 165-7 
Kim (a beetle), 48 
Kima'i, 566-7 
Kimali, see Scratching 
Kimali (kamali) kayasa, 256-9 
Kindred, see Maternal kindred 
(veyola) and Paternal rela- 
tives {tabula) 
Kinship : 

Fundamental factor, as, 515 
Household, distinct from "classi- 

ficatory," 525 
Mourning ceremonies deter- 
mined by, 4, 149-50, 157-8, 
159, 450 
Principle of, in the Trobriands, 
3-4» 84-5, 515-16, 516-18, 524 w. 
Sub-clan, by, 495 
Terms signifying: genealogical 
diagram illustrating, 515-16, 
516 w.; extension of, 525-31, 
Kiriwina Island: 

Aristocratic character of, 83 
Bush-pig taboo in, 190 
Capital of, 8-9 
Legendary mention of, 416 
Paternal cousin marriages in, 


Tilataula, relations with, 567 
and n. 

Villages comprised in, 131 
Kirisala, 392; instances of, 394-5, 

403-5 {and see Dreams) 
Kissing, 330-1 
Kitava Island: 

Kiriwina marriages with, 83 

Myth regarding, 543-6 

Visitors from, 260 

Wanton girl of, 488 

Waypulu festival in, 255 

mentioned, 193, 417 
Kituma, 357 
Ki'uki'u, 305 

Kolaluvi {lula, peace-offerings), 

114, 146 
Kopo'i, 18, 20, 195, 201 
Korikikila, 339 
Koulo (soot-smearing), 117, 158, 

292, 297 
Koumwali, 493 
Kouta'uya, 118-19, ^S^ 
Kovayse, 349 
Kovisi, 126 
Koya, 278 
Kuhilabala, 339 
Kukwanebu (folk-tales), 402 ff., 

Kula (ceremonial exchange) : 

Butia wreaths, of, 254 

Children's, 58 

Jealousy aroused, by, 114 

Terminology of, 255 

mentioned, 90 «., 96, 118 
Kula expeditions: 

Leader of, the wielder of its 
magic, 389-91 

Magic of, see under Magic 

Men concerned with, 26, 35 and 

n., 43 

Myths of, 291, 346 

Sexual intercourse with the visit- 
ing traders permitted, 260, 322 

Sexual taboo before, 455; on 
wives and sweethearts during, 

Unsuccessful, consolation for, 251 
Uvalaku, 252 
Youths' share in, 64 
Kumatala, 528-9 
Kumila, see Clans 
Kumilabwaga village, 274; myth 

of, 541 ff. 
Kurayana, 184, 185 n., 293, 483 
Kutawouya, 119 
Kuwo'igu, 113 
Kwabulo village, 403 ; legend of 

Inuvayla'u of, 413-22 
Kivaknvada (amorous excursion), 

246-7, 325-8, 335 
Kwaybwaga village, 272; high 

rank of, 458 
Kwaynama sub-clan: Tabalu mar- 
riages into, loo-i, 133; status 

of, 500 
Knvebila plant, 231, 358 



Kiuila, 165; ribald ditties about, 
240-1 ; tales of, 410 ff. ; jests 
about, 482-3 

Kivoyaivaga, 369-71 

Laba'i village, 355, 496-7 

Lactation, sexual intercourse ta- 
booed during, 455 

Lag a, 250, 251 w. 

Language: — 

Idiom, 68, 461, 516 
Pitfalls of, 5, 464-5, 480, 501-2, 
505, 526, 531 

Lapula, 349, 360-1 

Latula, see Children 

Layseta, 193-4 

Laziness, 88, 107, 143 

Lechery, 489-91 

Lice, 34, 112, 327, 335-6, 452, 460 

Likeness to maternal relatives de- 
nied, 204-8 ; to sister an insult- 
ing suggestion, 487 

Ltli'u, 426 

Liluta village: high rank of, 458; 
incest case in, 529 

Lime-chewing, 156, 160 

Lime-pots, 103, 145, 335-6; skulls 
used as, 156 

Lips: painting of, 270, 298; ideal of 
beauty in, 298 ; erotic caresses 
•with, 472 

L'lsiga (Chief's hut), 10, 71 

Livestock, male ownership of, 25 
{and see Pigs) 

Loads, method of carrying, 19-20 

Losa (wife of Yobukwa'u), 79, 138, 

Lo'u (form of suicide), 119-20, 
474, 503, 566-7 

Louse and the Butterfly, the, 403, 

Louya village, 274 

Love : — 

Magic connected with, see under 

Nature of, 283-4, 309 '■, Western 
reaction to, 309-10; Melane- 
sian, 310 ff.; akin to gambling 
and magic, 344-5 ; personal 
preference element in, 63, 66-7, 
74, 314-18 
Physiological seat of, 169 

Love (Cont.) 

Suicide caused by, 318 
Love-making: occupations of, 227- 

8, 231 ff. ; conversation in, 228- 

30, 341-2 {and see Courtship) 
Luba village, 131 
Lubay-, meaning of term, 68 
Lubayla, meaning of term, 471 ; 

veyola distinguished from, 502 
Lu'ebila village, 173 
Lugiva (vendetta), 448, 459 
Lukuba clan, 430, 496, 528 ; its 

origin, 498-9 
Lukulabuta clan, origin of, 498 
Lukwasisiga clan, 133; its origin, 

Lula (gifts of reconciliation), 114, 

Lwvayam, 349 

Magic {megiva) : 

Abortion, of, 197 

Ancestral spirits associated with 
art of, 389 

Beauty, of: women's perform- 
ance of, 38, 44, 350; men's, 44, 
220 n., 351; head and face tak- 
ing precedence in, 296; as to 
the mouth, 298 ; over a comb, 
300; for the kula, see subhead- 
ing Kula; at first pregnancy, 
219-20 and n.; on mothers, 
234; not confined to sex mat- 
ters, 345-6; associated with 
ceremonial events, 361 ; pub- 
licly performed, 361 

Black {bulubivalata), see Sorcery 
and Magic — weather 

Breath with the words the vehi- 
cle of, 41, 214, 217 

Centre of, 355 

Childbirth, at {vatula bam)y 
228-31; the vivisa, 231 

Counter-magic, 47, 231, 363-4, 
378, 519 

Courtship, of, 63, 313, 318 

Cure of disease, for, see sub- 
heading Counter-magiq'iT 

Dancers, against, 358, 458, 460; 
for their protection, 358 

Dancing period, of a, 348 

Dead, in honour of the, 155 



Magic (Cont.) 

Differentiation of: by clan, 

497-8; by sub-clan, 41 
Dreams in relation to, 367, 391-6, 


Evil, see Sorcery 

Exorcism, of — use of word lu- 
guta, 519 

Fetching-back formula, 381-3 

Folk-tales of, 404-5 

Forgetfulness, of, in the spirit 
world, 431 

Formulae of, 213-14, 352, 354-7, 
365 ff., 379-82; ancestral names 
a feature in, 389; checking of, 
370; power in, 41 

Importance of, 40, 344-5 

Incest, of, 511, 512 

Inheritance of, 41, 48, 209; sons 
performing magic in place of 
their fathers, 48, 96, 99 ; sor- 
cery an exception, 48 

Kula (mivasila), 41-2, 43, 48, 
219 and n., 222 n., 346, 351, 
370; its distant effect, 391, 
392 n. 

Love, of: the cause of love, 540; 
its origin: A Myth of Incest, 
539) 540 ff- 1 the original text, 
551-65; the rite and spell in, 
365 ff.; believed infallible un- 
less magically counteracted, 
364-5; kayro'iiva system, 369, 
373; Ubomalu system, 373; 
kivoygapani system, 373 ; com- 
pared with other forms of 
magic, 219 «.; accounted cor- 
rect procedure, 488, 491 ; per- 
formed by men or women, 44, 
45; privately performed, 361; 
dreams induced by, 367, 391-4, 
bodily contacts required in, 
370, 479-81 ; importance of, 
344-5; realities of, 374 ff-; 
cases of, 107-8, 144-5, 3^6, 530 

Making things, of, 42-3, 213 

Malasi clan's, 513 

Mci. s, 41-4; women can be 
transmitters of, 48 

Nature of, 41, 344 

Personality associated with suc- 
cess in, 375-7 

Magic {Cont.) 

Pregnancy, of first: charming 
the robes, 213-17; the cere- 
monial washing, 217-20, 222; 
beauty magic, 219-21, 345; in- 
vestment with the robes, 221 
Pregnancy, to induce, 177 
Renown, of (butura), 359 
Safety, of, 357-8 
Scents associated with, 448-50, 

480, 541-2, 546-7 ^ 
Spells, see subheading Formulae 
Sphere of, 40-1 ; division by sex, 

Systems of, 361-2, 373; heredi- 
tary, 41, 48, 209, 373 
War, of, 42-3, 492 
Weather, 40, 44, 48, 133 
Women's, 41-5, 48 {and see sub- 
heading Pregnancy) 
Magicians: dreams of, 390-1 ; du- 
ties of the magician of glory, 
360 {and see Sorcerers) 
Magila kayta, 166 
Magistrates: 12, 116, 474; perni- 
cious influence of, 33 n.2, 140, 
566 ; polygamy forbidden by, 
135 and n.^; prestige of service 
with, 143 
Mailu tribe, sexual customs of, 

277 n., 312 «., 332 
Malasi clan: — 

Highest sub-clan belonging to, 

457, 499 
Magic associated with, 513 
Origin, of, 496, 499 
Paternal cousin marriage in, 531 
Primacy of, 496, 499 
Sexual freedoms of, 531, 546-7, 
565, 568 
Man cited: "War and Weapons 
among the Natives of the Tro- 
briand Is,," 35 n.^ 
Manimuwa, sorcerer of Wakayse, 

145, 377, 532 
Manners: associated with rank, 
397; general considerations re- 
garding, 451-2 {and see Deli- 
Mapula kayhab^ma, 89, 105 
Marriage {see also Husbands and 
Wives) : — 



Marriage (Cont.) 

Affinity of character in, 67, 112- 


Choice in. factors determining^ 

Co-habitation preceding, 67-9, 74 
(and see Sexual intercourse) 

Comradeship in, 112-13 

Cross-cousin; diagram showing, 
97; the one lawful kind, 
101-2, 536; significance of, 15- 
16, 77; infant betrothal for, 
see Infants — Betrothal ; rea- 
sons for, and results of, 95 ff., 
209; matrilocal, 98; pedigree 
showing, 99 

Deceased wife's sister, with, 

456-7 . 
Dissolution of, easy, 113 
Divorce, after, 146-7 
Early days of, 109-10 
Economic aspect of, 125-6; chiefs' 

wealth dependent on, 130-2 
Endogamous: tabooed, 455-6; 

districts where practised, 458, 

Exogamous, the rule, 462, 501-2; 

evasions of, 505, 510-12; dis- 
ease alleged to follow breach 

of, 504; observance of limited 

exogamy in the endogamous 

district, 500 
Gifts, exchange of, 89 ff. 
"Group marriage" non-existent, 

72-3, 537. 
Happiness in, the rule, 113-14 
Infant betrothal equivalent to, 

Infidelity in, see Adultery 
Licentious customs in relation 

to, 537-8 
Matrilocal, of cousins, 98 
Motives for: men's, 77-81, 83; 

women's, 82 
Noble and commoner, of, 33 
Patrilocal, the rule, 6, 11, 98, 

Polygamy, see under Chiefs 
Punctilious decorum observed in, 

Purchase of bride non-existent, 


Marriage (Cont.) 

Quarrels in, 114 

Rank barriers in, 80, 83, 457 

Re-marriage, 80 

Restrictions on: of kinship, 4; 
totemic endogamous and social, 
82-3 (and see subheadings 
Endogamous and Exogamous) 

Simplicity of, 76 

Wife-beating, 114, 120, 143 

Wife's family, economic obliga- 
tions of, 76-7, 81, 85-6, 88, 97, 

103, 106, 121, 125-6, 129, 143; 

case of Chiefs' wives, 131- 

Marshall Bennett Is., 260, 297, 308 
Masochism, 475 
Masturbation, native contempt for, 

340, 469-70, 475-6 
Mat-making, 26 
Matala, 167 
Maternal kindred (veyola) : 

Facial resemblances to, denied, 

174-5,. 487 
Reliability, of: the yausa per- 
formed by, 229 
Support from, 118 
Taboo on: as to love affairs, 

84-5 ; in mortuary ceremonies, 

150, 157-8, 450 
Uncle, see that heading 
Widow under surveillance of 

husband's, 158, 160 
Maternal kinswomen: 

Children of divorced couple in 

household of, 147 
Confinement, their part at and 

after, 230-2 
Decorous speech in presence of, 

Divorcing wife in household of, 

Girls sleeping at house of, 63 
Maintenance of, a duty, 122 
Pregnancies, agency in, 175, 176 
Reliability of, 103 
Maternity: duties and taboos of, 

232-3, 516, 518 
Matrillneal principle: 

Conflict of, with paternal affec- 
tion, 7 {and see Dual influ- 



Matrilineal principle (Cont.) 

Foundation for, in pregnancy 

beliefs, 179 
Inheritance under, 209 ; evasions 

of, 209-10 and n. 
Social organization based on, 
4, 28-9, 515-16, 517, 524. 


Privacy during, desired, 350, 441 
Sharing of: not pe